Xanax and Alcohol: Is It Safe To Mix? Dangers & Side Effects

Last Updated: September 22, 2023

Although Xanax is a common medication, mixing Xanax and alcohol can increase the risk of dangerous side effects and overdose.

Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication for conditions like anxiety. However, if you take Xanax regularly, you may wonder if having a drink while taking the medication is safe. Understanding the potential danger of mixing the two substances is important before drinking while on Xanax

What Is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name of the benzodiazepine drug alprazolam. It is a Schedule IV controlled substance often prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders and can be used for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Although experts aren’t exactly sure how alprazolam works, they believe it enhances the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain at GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. GABA is the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter, which slows down brain activity.

Xanax Side Effects

Xanax has many side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Low mood
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Coordination problems
  • Poor memory and cognitive problems
  • Insomnia
  • Abnormal involuntary movements
  • Low sex drive 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Stomach pain
  • Nasal congestion
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Rash
  • Appetite and weight changes

Xanax Addiction and Abuse

As a controlled substance, Xanax carries an increased risk of abuse, addiction, dependence and health consequences.

Long-term Effects of Xanax Abuse

Taking Xanax over the long term can lead to many consequences. Some of the health consequences of Xanax can occur even if you don’t misuse the medication. These consequences include:

  • Physical effects like an increased risk of fractures and car accidents.
  • Mental effects like cognitive impairment.
  • Social effects like interpersonal problems due to Xanax.
  • Legal effects like problems with the law due to Xanax use.
  • Educational or vocational effects like problems at school or work due to Xanax use.

Signs of Xanax Addiction 

When a person develops a Xanax addiction, signs often become evident to friends, family and loved ones. These signs include:

  • Taking more Xanax or taking Xanax for longer than intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back on or quit Xanax
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from Xanax
  • Cravings for Xanax
  • Failure to complete tasks at work, school or home due to Xanax
  • Interpersonal problems linked to Xanax use
  • Giving up or cutting back on other activities due to Xanax use
  • Taking Xanax even when it is physically dangerous 
  • Remaining on Xanax even though you know the drug is harming you
  • Needing more Xanax to achieve the same effects as before
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit Xanax

Dangers of Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Mixing Xanax and alcohol is dangerous because both agents are central nervous system depressants. This means their side effects may combine synergistically, making the effects of mixing them worse than each individually. Combining them can lead to side effects like:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Problems concentrating
  • Impaired thinking 
  • Poor judgment

However, mixing them can also lead to more serious effects, including an increased risk of overdose from slowed breathing. Alcohol contributes to around 18.5% of all benzodiazepine overdose deaths.

Lastly, because alcohol and Xanax are potentially addictive, mixing them may increase your risk of developing an addiction to one or both substances.

How Long After Taking Xanax Can I Drink?

You should avoid drinking while Xanax is still in your system. Unfortunately, this can take a couple of days. The half-life of a drug refers to how long it takes for half of a single dose to leave your system, and in general, it takes five half-lives for a drug to leave your body. Xanax’s half-life ranges from 11–16 hours in most people but can be even longer in some, including those who:

  • Are elderly
  • Are of Asian ethnicity
  • Are obese
  • Have alcoholic liver disease

This means it can be over three days before your system is free of Xanax.

How Long After Drinking Can I Take Xanax? 

You should never drink and take Xanax at the same time. Alcohol can last in your system for hours, reaching a max level in your blood within 45 minutes and slowly wearing off in the following hours.

Your blood alcohol content (BAC) reflects how much alcohol is in your system, and differs depending on how much you drink, your body composition and your sex. Once your BAC peaks, it decreases by about 0.015 per hour. For example, if your BAC peaks at 0.08, it takes over five hours for alcohol to exit your bloodstream. It is impossible to guess your BAC on your own, but breathalyzer tests can determine your BAC.

Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about when it is safe to drink after taking Xanax based on your specific medical history and the amount of alcohol you have had.

Treatment for Xanax and Alcohol Addiction

If you struggle with Xanax and alcohol, quitting both substances can seem overwhelming. Polysubstance abuse can be hard to overcome alone, but help is here. At Orlando Recovery Center, we are experts in helping people recover from polysubstance abuse. With our medical detox program to wean you off alcohol and Xanax and our rehab program to teach you the skills to stay away from these substances, we are with you every step of the way. Don’t wait: contact a Recovery Advocate today.


Drugs.com. “Alprazolam Monograph for Professionals.” September 26, 2022. Accessed April 16, 2023.

Johnson, Brian; Streltzer, Jon. “Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use.” American Family Physician, August 15, 2013. Accessed April 16, 2023.

Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, June 23, 2022. Accessed April 16, 2023.

PsychDB. “Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic (Benzodiazepine) Use Disorder.” March 29, 2021. Accessed April 16, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Drug Interaction Report: alprazolam, ethanol.” Accessed April 16, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Metabolism-Alcohol Alert No.35.” Alcohol Alert, January 1997. Accessed April 16, 2023.

Bowling Green State University. “Alcohol Metabolism.” October 16, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol-Medication Interactions: Potentially Dangerous Mixes.” May 6, 2022. Accessed April 16, 2023.

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