Percocet and Xanax

It would be difficult at this point not to have heard about the destruction prescription drugs have caused throughout the U.S. A lot of the focus tends to be on the opioid epidemic, and that does lead to tens of thousands of deaths each year. However, overdoses and fatalities are connected to other drug classes as well. Many emergency room overdose visits each year frequently result from a combination of different types of drugs.

Combining drugs can mask the effects of each substance to the point where users don’t realize how much they’ve taken. If two drugs have similar effects, such as respiratory depression, combining them can also increase these potentially dangerous effects. There are different reasons someone might combine two drugs, such as Percocet and Xanax. It could be done without understanding the possible effects. It could also be done by a recreational drug user to heighten the high.

Percocet and Xanax
Percocet is a brand-name prescription drug intended to be used for the relief of moderate to severe pain. Percocet is a combination medicine with oxycodone, which is an opioid, and acetaminophen. The objective of opioid combination medicines is to improve how effectively they can relieve pain. Acetaminophen is a commonly-used medication available in over-the-counter products like Tylenol. Oxycodone changes how the brain and body respond to pain because of its effects on the central nervous system.

Percocet is a highly addictive medication; it can be habit-forming, and it can lead to physical dependence. Physical dependence to a drug can happen with or without psychological addiction. Dependence refers to a condition where the user goes through withdrawal if he or she stops using a substance. Psychological addiction refers to a chronic brain disease triggered by the effects of drugs and alcohol on the reward pathways of the brain. For someone legitimately prescribed Percocet, there are ways to reduce the risk of addiction. These steps can include taking Percocet only as prescribed and taking it for a short period of time. Usually, patients aren’t instructed to take Percocet for any more than a few weeks to reduce the likelihood of addiction.

Xanax is a brand-name drug known generically as alprazolam. Xanax is among the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs in the U.S. Millions of prescriptions are written for it each year. Xanax is meant to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It’s part of a larger class of drugs called benzodiazepines, all of which are for symptoms of anxiety and panic. Benzos work by increasing the amount of a calming brain neurotransmitter called GABA.  Other benzos include Klonopin, Ativan, and Valium.

Much like Percocet, Xanax carries the risk of becoming habit-forming, and users can become physically dependent. Xanax is especially addictive when it’s taken in large doses or combined with other substances, and it’s very often used recreationally. Xanax is addictive because it can cause a high in users, and it’s also a short-acting drug. Generally, shorter-acting psychoactive medications tend to be the most likely to lead to addiction.

When Xanax is used exactly as prescribed, it’s considered relatively safe and effective. Doctors are advised against prescribing it for more than a period of two weeks. It shouldn’t be used as a long-term medication to manage anxiety. That’s better left to other classes of drugs, such as SSRIs.

What happens if you mix Percocet and Xanax? First, both Percocet and Xanax depress the central nervous system. They do so in different ways, but they share this effect. Percocet binds to opioid receptors results in slowed functionality of the CNS. Xanax achieves this effect by causing the brain to produce more GABA, which is a natural depressant.

Taking two central nervous system depressants together puts the user at high risk for potentially dangerous respiratory depression. Respiratory depression means your breathing slows down, and this can lead to loss of consciousness, coma or death. Combining two CNS depressants can also cause changes in heart rate. According to recent reports, almost one in three accidental prescription drug overdoses involves a combination of both opioids and benzodiazepines. It’s become so problematic that benzodiazepines and prescription opioids now have a black box warning about the risks of combining these two classes of drugs.

Health professionals say that the trend toward more deadly overdoses involving both an opioid and a benzo is a relatively new one. What’s even more troubling is that a lot of patients are prescribed these classes of drugs together by a physician. One report showed that between 2002 and 2014, the number of patients who were prescribed a benzo and an opioid went up 41 percent. That means 2.5 million people received an opioid prescription and a benzodiazepine prescription. Doctors are just starting to become aware of the risks of prescribing medicines like Percocet and Xanax together. In the past, it would have been normal for a patient in an accident to receive opioids for pain relief and benzos for anxiety.

What’s the takeaway? Never combine Percocet and Xanax. A best-case scenario is that you’re increasing your chances of becoming addicted to one or both, and the worst-case scenario is death. Opioids and benzodiazepines should never be combined, recreationally or otherwise.

If you’re struggling with benzodiazepines, opioids or both, The Recovery Village has been working with people from around the country to help them combat their addiction. Please contact us to learn more about recovery, treatment and the experience at our facility.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.