Fentanyl is a potent opioid that’s available with a prescription, but through various routes has also found its way to the illegal drug market in the past few decades. Fentanyl is believed to be stronger than heroin, and up to 100 times stronger than morphineXanax is a benzodiazepine that is commonly prescribed to treat anxietypanic disorders and phobias.

In a medical environment fentanyl was introduced for end-of-life pain management, and still, its applications are primarily to treat people with chronic pain from cancer who are already receiving around-the-clock pain treatment in the form of another narcotic. Since fentanyl is powerful, it can be used to manage the severe breakthrough pain that cancer patients often experience, even when they’re receiving other pain medicines.

Unfortunately, because of its potency and the euphoric high fentanyl can initially create in someone when they use it, it’s become part of the opioid epidemic impacting much of the nation. Some individuals also mix fentanyl with other drugs to increase their potency. Combining fentanyl with any medication, even non-opioids like Xanax can be lethal.

The Fentanyl Problem

There are a few ways fentanyl has become particularly problematic.

The first is with people who are prescribed to the drug, in many cases when they shouldn’t necessarily have been, who then become dependent on it. People who use fentanyl can become physically dependent on it relatively quickly as they develop a tolerance, and their body becomes used to its presence.

When tolerance develops, and they stop taking it, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Even when fentanyl is prescribed to a patient, a physician will often have them taper off the drug rather than suddenly stopping it because of the withdrawal symptoms.

People may also start taking fentanyl knowingly and buying it illicitly because they want that powerful high that it can bring. These people may obtain a prescription and then abuse it by taking it in ways other than what’s directed, or they may buy it off the streets where it might not even be legitimate.

Another way fentanyl is problematic is how people are inadvertently taking it. They may think they’re taking heroin or another kind of drug, but it’s been laced with fentanyl unbeknownst to them.

Counterfeit drug manufacturers and dealers are increasingly combining it with other drugs, such as heroin mixed with fentanyl or fentanyl and Xanax. It’s so potent that it’s measured in micrograms, and even a small amount taken without someone knowing it can lead to an overdose or death.

Fentanyl and Xanax

Fentanyl and Xanax combinations usually aren’t something people are aware of when they buy Xanax off the streets, but such combinations are extremely dangerous.

The tablets that combine fentanyl and Xanax are often thinner than a legitimate Xanax, and they may have a number stamped on them.

Xanax on its own is also a commonly abused prescription drug. It impacts chemicals in the brain to help with symptoms of anxiety, and it can create a sense of calm and relaxation.

Xanax is one of the most abused and most addictive drugs on the market, and even without fentanyl, Xanax can lead to dependence and addiction relatively quickly. When people start seeking Xanax outside of a prescription, they are putting themselves at a higher risk of purchasing Xanax laced with fentanyl.

Combining Opiates and Benzodiazepines

There are immediate dangers that can come from taking fentanyl, no matter the situation, including respiratory depression that leads to coma or death. There are even more dangers when opiates are combined with benzodiazepines like Xanax.

Opioids, such as fentanyl, combined with benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, leads to an increased risk of overdose. Benzos heighten the effects of opioids, and fentanyl is already one of the most potent opioids available.

Along with a high likelihood of overdose, combining fentanyl and Xanax creates an even larger risk of abuse.

The reason for the risk is that opiates and benzos both can cause respiratory depression and sedation, which is what leads to death in situations of overdose.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is never to buy Xanax off the streets, and only take what you’re prescribed. It’s also important to make sure you’re never putting yourself in a situation where you’re mixing fentanyl and Xanax, whether inadvertently or intentionally.

If you or a loved one live with addiction, help is available. Contact The Recovery Village and speak to a representative who can guide you through treatment options. Calls are free and representatives are ready to discuss how you can address your addiction and any co-occurring disorders.

a man with a beard wearing glasses and a hoodie.
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
a woman with red hair wearing a white sweater.
Medically Reviewed By – Christina Caplinger, RPh
Christina Caplinger is a licensed pharmacist in both Colorado and Idaho and is also a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

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.