Increased side effects can occur when you mix a benzo with an alcoholic drink. These side effects can be fatal, so understanding the risk factors could save a life.
Article at a Glance:
Heavy drinkers are more likely than others to take benzodiazepines, or benzos.
Mixing benzos and alcohol can increase your risk of side effects, some of which are serious.
Cognitive problems that are linked to benzos can be worsened if you drink heavily.
Mixing Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
Combining benzodiazepines, or benzos, with alcohol can be dangerous. Not only do you run a higher risk of side effects from using the substances together, but you also have a higher chance of overdose and death. For this reason, doctors recommend avoiding benzo use with alcohol.
Drug overdoses can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone, contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.
Related Topic: Benzo Overdose Treatment
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are psychoactive depressants prescribed to treat mental health disorders such as anxiety, and physical issues like seizures and muscle spasms. Some common benzos are Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium and Valium. Benzos should only be taken as prescribed for a legitimate medical condition, as they can be addictive and therefore could lead to a substance use disorder.
|Medical uses||Sedation, relieving anxiety, preventing muscle spasms, and reducing seizures|
|Controlled substance status||Schedule IV Controlled Substance|
|Common side effects||Sleepiness, relaxation, memory problems|
Alcohol is not a benzo. However, like a benzo, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.
Alcohol and benzos work in some similar ways. For example, both substances impact the GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in your brain. However, alcohol and benzos are different agents with different chemical structures, and therefore do not work identically.
Doctors recommend completely avoiding alcohol if you take a benzo. Your medical history and other medications can impact how safe it is for you to have even small amounts of alcohol while taking a benzo.
Benzos and Alcohol Side Effects
When you mix benzos with alcohol, you increase your risk of side effects like:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems thinking
- Impaired judgment
Cognitive problems from mixing benzos and alcohol can worsen if you frequently drink a lot. Those who drink heavily are also more likely to use more benzos than those who drink moderately or do not drink.
How Long After Taking a Benzo Before You Can Drink?
The amount of time that lapses before you can safely drink alcohol depends on the benzo that you are taking. This is because benzos last different lengths of time in your system. It is best to wait until a benzo has completely left your system before you drink.
- Benzos that last 11 to 20 hours: Alprazolam (Xanax), Lorazepam (Ativan), Estazolam (Prosom) and Temazepam (Restoril)
- Benzos that last 1 to 3 days: Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), Flurazepam (Dalmane) and Quazepam
If you have other medical conditions like poor kidney or liver function, the benzo may last even longer in your body.
Related Topic: How Long Do Benzodiazepines Stay in Your System?
Benzodiazepines for Alcohol Withdrawal
Benzodiazepines are a first-line treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms because they can reduce withdrawal symptoms like delirium and seizures. Generally, long-acting benzos like diazepam or chlordiazepoxide are preferred for preventing withdrawal symptoms. If a person in withdrawal has an alcohol withdrawal seizure, quick-acting benzos like lorazepam or diazepam are preferred.
If you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, benzos or both, The Recovery Village can help. Our addiction specialists can develop a personalized, evidence-based treatment plan that addresses co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Contact us today to discuss treatment options that can meet your needs.
Related Topic: Medications for Alcohol Abuse
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal & Detox Options
American Society of Addiction Management. “The American Society of Addiction Manage[…]ithdrawal Management,” January 23, 2020. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Ogbru, Annette. “Benzodiazepines.” RxList, April 1, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Drugs.com. “Drug Interaction Report.” August 31, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Kang, Michael; Galuska,Michael A.; Ghassemzadeh, Sassan. “Benzodiazepine Toxicity,” StatPearls, July 26, 2021. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Wallner, M.; Olsen, RW. “Physiology and pharmacology of alcohol: […]or drug development?” British Journal of Pharmacology, May 2008. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Leigh, Suzanne. “Problem Drinkers Have Higher ‘Benzo’[…]rmanente Study Shows,” University of California San Francisco, December 13, 2019. Accessed September 30, 2021.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Benzodiazepines.” April 2020. Accessed September 30, 2021.
DrugBank Online. “Central Nervous System Depressants.” Drugbank, Accessed September 30, 2021.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.