Mixing Benzodiazepines with Other Substances
One of the biggest risks of many prescription drugs isn’t the drug itself, but it’s what happens when people combine them with other substances. One example is the combination of benzodiazepines and opioids. Benzodiazepines affect Gabapentin (“GABA”) and slow the central nervous system, which is why they’re helpful to treat conditions like anxiety and insomnia. Opioids are prescription pain medications that target specific receptors in the central nervous system, and also serve as a depressant. On their own, benzodiazepines aren’t necessarily dangerous when used as prescribed. When benzodiazepines are combined with opioids, the combination can be deadly. Since both depress the central nervous system (“CNS”), breathing and heart rate can slow to a dangerous or deadly level. The risks of benzos and opioids is so serious there is a black box warning issued with these prescription drugs.
Benzodiazepines are actually involved in the majority of ER visits related to an excessive and dangerous dose of a drug, but not usually on their own. It’s almost always in combination with another substance. It’s also common for people who misuse benzos to misuse other substances as well. For example, benzodiazepines might be used as someone is coming down from a stimulant like cocaine. Benzos are also commonly used by people with alcohol misuse disorders. With an estimated half of all alcoholics also having a benzo misuse problem, what are the risks of mixing Seral and alcohol?
The Risks of Mixing Serax and Alcohol
Serax (oxazepam) is a benzodiazepine that takes a long time to have an effect. It can take hours for the effects of this drug to be felt, and it’s a metabolite of diazepam. Serax is typically prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. It has a calming effect as do other benzos. Because of the long onset of action, it has a lower risk of misuse, although it’s still possible. Similarly to other benzos, Serax affects the central nervous system of users. It increases the effects of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for calming overactivity of neurons. People who use Serax may appear intoxicated, drowsy, and they may have problems with balance, coordination, and speech. Many of the visible side effects of Serax are similar to alcohol.
Alcohol also affects the central nervous system. The CNS is responsible for controlling how people take in sensory information, controlling motor function, and it controls thinking, reasoning and emotion. Alcohol slows down the CNS. This slowdown is why symptoms of being drunk include slurred speech, slow reaction times, impaired vision and memory impairment.
The similar effects make mixing Serax and alcohol a bad idea, yet people do it anyway. There are different reasons for mixing Serax and alcohol, but primarily it’s recreational. People want to amplify the feelings of being intoxicated, and one substance heightens the effects of the other. When two drugs with similar effects are combined, a person may become overly intoxicated. This can increase the likelihood of the person putting themselves in a dangerous or risky situation. Operating a vehicle or machinery becomes even more dangerous than it would be while on one substance.
When someone is mixing Serax and alcohol, they’re also at risk for an excessive and dangerous dose of a drug. Since both Serax and alcohol impact the CNS, breathing can slow so much that a person loses consciousness, goes into a coma or dies. When someone’s action results in an excessive and dangerous dose of a drug, oxygen can’t reach their brain, so even if they survive they may suffer brain damage. Even in a best-case scenario, there is a higher risk of adverse side effects when someone is mixing Serax and alcohol. These side effects can include nausea and vomiting. There are also sudden events that can occur when substances are combined like a heart attack or stroke. Over time when someone regularly mixes Serax and alcohol, they may be at risk for gastrointestinal problems, liver and kidney damage, and neurological damage. Psychological side effects can occur when people regularly combine benzos and alcohol as well. For example, long-term misuse of Serax and alcohol could lead to depression, anxiety or psychotic disorders.
Even if these risks weren’t frightening enough, people who misuse Serax and alcohol are at risk of developing a psychological disease and physical reliance to both drugs. This is known as a polysubstance misuse disorder or polysubstance passion for recurrence of misuse. This is a more complicated situation to treat and can have more detrimental side effects than having an excessive devotion for only one substance.
Are you struggling with benzos, alcohol or another substance? The Recovery Village is here, so please contact us. We offer judgment-free answers to your questions, and we can provide the opportunity to recover from psychological disease.
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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.