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Risks of Mixing Benzos and Alcohol

Those who have a prescription for a benzodiazepine medication need to comply with the warning that states alcohol consumption while taking the drug could be harmful. Benzos and alcohol do not mix; thus mixing benzos and alcohol carries serious risks.

Both benzos and alcohol are central nervous system depressants and can cause excessive sleepiness and breathing difficulties when taken together. Misuse or abuse of benzodiazepines is unsafe, but consuming alcohol at the same time increases the risk of overdose or death. 

What Are Benzos?

Benzodiazepines are prescription medications for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, seizure and movement disorders, and alcohol withdrawal management. The medication slows an overly excited nervous system and creates a calming effect.

The drug interacts with the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. Data from a 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reveals that 25 million people over the age of 12 took prescription benzos in the last year. Unfortunately, 80% of those who misuse or abuse benzos do so in combination with other substances.

Some common benzodiazepine medications with their brand names are:

  • Alprazolam: Xanax
  • Lorazepam: Ativan
  • Triazolam: Halcion
  • Clonazepam: Klonopin
  • Diazepam: Valium

Alcohol Facts and Risks

The World Health Organization states alcohol is a psychoactive substance that causes a high risk for disease and significant social and economic hardship. It is responsible for 3 million deaths every year worldwide. It also creates financial difficulties and many health risks indicated in the article.

Alcohol use disorders are responsible for health, mental, and behavioral problems. Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants, benzo, and alcohol use are extremely dangerous and, in overdose, can adversely affect breathing. 

Benzos and Alcohol’s Effects

When 2 substances are in use at the same time, a polysubstance use disorder is present. The effects of both substances in combination are stronger than individually. Additionally, they are more unpredictable than when there is abuse of 1 substance.

People may use more than one substance for a variety of reasons. Polysubstance use can be unintentional or intentional but increases the risk of death substantially. Benzodiazepine addiction is, in itself, difficult to address, but adding alcohol increases the risk of many hazards. 

Polysubstance use occurs for any of the following reasons:

  • Intensifies and enhances the euphoric effects of the substance
  • Diminishes the high of cocaine
  • Heightens alcohol effects
  • Backup for primary substance use
  • Helps with managing withdrawal symptoms between substance use

The effects of benzos and alcohol combination effects explicitly the central nervous system and work on the GABA neurotransmitter. Each substance alone suppresses respiratory activity and increases sedation, so they are especially dangerous.

Additionally, each substance carries its side effects, so when consuming them together, multiple side effects occur to the brain and the body simultaneously.

Mental, Physical, and Emotional Effects of Benzos

The combination of benzos and alcohol can induce overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional side effects. Research shows that polysubstance use disorders have a higher rate of suicide attempts, arrest and incarceration, financial and legal issues, and adverse medical and psychological problems.

Treatment for polysubstance use is also more complicated because of 2 separate sets of withdrawal symptoms to manage. Medical management in this situation must include medication-assisted treatment.

Signs and symptoms of benzo addiction include any of the following:

  • Impairment of motor control
  • Drowsiness and unusual behavior
  • Dizziness and memory problems
  • Higher risk of injury from falls, driving accidents
  • Increased probability of violent, and risky sexual behavior
  • Slowed or complicated breathing patterns
  • Increased risk of fatal overdose
  • Brain damage, organ damage, chronic disease

Benzos Withdrawal

After a tolerance strengthens and higher doses of benzos need to be taken to achieve the same desired effects, withdrawal symptoms can appear when the dosage lowers, or usage ends. Withdrawal symptoms from benzos are physically and emotionally painful and can be life-threatening if usage ends cold turkey.

Long-term use promotes the most intense withdrawal symptoms. After the acute stage of withdrawal ends, a protracted set of withdrawal symptoms can appear weeks to months in the future. 

The symptoms of benzo withdrawals can include any of the following symptoms:

  • Stress, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Muscle stiffness and discomfort
  • Cravings 
  • Hand tremors
  • Changes in perception
  • Risk of suicidal ideation

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and life-threatening, according to WebMD. The client must have medical supervision throughout the entire detox process. Delirium tremens is a severe and complicated symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms begin shortly after the last drink of alcohol. 

Within hours of the last drink, the following withdrawal symptoms can begin:

  • Anxiety and headache
  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating, nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia

After the initial withdrawal symptoms and within 12 to 18 hours after the last drink, the following withdrawal symptoms begin:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Hearing, seeing, and feeling things that are not there

Finally, 48 to 72 hours after the last drink, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Delirium tremens
  • Confusion
  • Racing heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating


Detoxing from benzos and alcohol is a complex process, and only professional medical staff with experience can manage the symptoms. A tapering process may be put into effect, and monitoring medication-assisted treatment is challenging. Clients in this situation need a high level of support and understanding. It is crucial to keep the client comfortable to prevent relapse. 

Once the detox process is complete, outpatient or inpatient rehab offers the highest chance of success for recovery. Many options are available to promote relapse prevention and continue with individual and group therapy. In all cases, longevity in treatment allows for a higher success rate for sobriety. Every individual will experience a different level of care depending upon individual needs. 

Get Benzos and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Near Tennessee

Finding help with treatment options for a polysubstance use disorder is possible. Tennessee Valley Recovery offers multiple treatment options and programs to address the treatment of polysubstance use. Detox programs are available to address dependence on benzos and alcohol.

Contact the center today for more information.