Taking Xanax while sick may seem helpful for sleep, but it can lead to increased side effects, weaken the immune system and interact with other cold medications.

Article at a Glance:

  • Many cold medications contain depressants similar to Xanax.
  • Taking Xanax in addition to other cold medications can increase the risk of dizziness and drowsiness.
  • Xanax can worsen breathing problems for people who have COVID-19.
  • Speak with your doctor before starting any new medication while sick.

Reasons People Take Xanax When Sick

To Help With Sleep

The main reason people might take Xanax while sick is that it can help them sleep and get rest. Since Xanax is a depressant, it can help you relax and fall asleep. It can be tough to get enough rest when you’re sick, particularly when you’re tossing and turning.

To Help with Coughing

Another reason people might take Xanax while they’re sick is because they assume it could help with cough symptoms since Xanax depresses the respiratory system. However, Xanax does not help with a cough. It does not affect the areas of the brain that control cough.

To Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms

Some people regularly take Xanax and continue to do it while they’re sick because discontinuing use could lead to uncomfortable symptoms. Depending on the extent of their usage, it could even trigger Xanax withdrawal symptoms.

While you might feel there are a few benefits to taking Xanax while sick, there are many more potential disadvantages that can be dangerous or even deadly.


Does Xanax help with nausea?

No, Xanax will not treat symptoms of nausea.

Does Xanax dehydrate you?

No, Xanax does not impact your hydration, but can cause diarrhea, which may lead to dehydration.

Side Effects of Taking Xanax When Sick

In general, there are a lot of potential side effects that can come from Xanax use. Some of these are similar to what happens when you’re sick with a cold or the flu, and they can be amplified if you take Xanax when you’re already experiencing certain symptoms of sickness.

Common Side Effects

For example, common Xanax side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lightheadedness, shakiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Weakness

If you take Xanax when sick, and you’re already experiencing these symptoms beforehand, it can become particularly problematic.

Rare Side Effects

Less common symptoms of taking Xanax also include body aches and pains, stomach or abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, seizures, difficulty breathing and dry skin.

Again, these are symptoms similar to being sick, so by taking Xanax, you might be more likely to experience these symptoms, or they might be worse than they would be otherwise.

Depending on you as an individual, you may also find that Xanax doesn’t necessarily help you sleep when you’re sick, but instead causes sleep problems.

Severe Side Effects & Dehydration

Some of these Xanax symptoms can be very serious, such as diarrhea, because it can lead to dehydration. Diarrhea can also occur when you’re sick, and if you do become dehydrated, it can be deadly.

Xanax and the Immune System

Another important reason to reconsider using Xanax when sick is its effects on the immune system. Xanax and other benzodiazepines have been shown to suppress the immune system, leading to a higher likelihood of contracting pneumonia.

It’s important to realize that when you take Xanax when sick, you may actually be making yourself sicker, or you might be making it harder for your body to recover from the sickness.

Xanax and COVID

Xanax can worsen breathing problems for people who have COVID-19. Xanax slows down many parts of the body, so breathing may become more difficult.

However, people with seizure disorders should not stop taking Xanax without first speaking with their doctor.

Xanax and Cold Medication

When you’re sick and take Xanax, you might also be combining it with other drugs. These drugs can seem harmless enough, such as over-the-counter (OTC) cough or cold medicines, but unfortunately, they can produce dangerous interactions with Xanax.

Many common cold medicines can have adverse effects when combined with Xanax, and you might not even be aware of these potential risks. Many cold medications like Nyquil contain depressant medications because they are designed to help a person sleep. Examples include diphenhydramine and doxylamine.

Taking Xanax While Sick: When To Speak With a Doctor

Xanax may help you relax or fall asleep while you’re sick, but it can also lead to negative side effects that are compounded by your sickness. It could lower your immune system’s ability to fight the sickness, and taking Xanax with other cold medications can also lead to deadly drug interactions.

That said, you may need to consider the possibility of negative withdrawal symptoms if you are prescribed Xanax and want to pause while you’re sick. Speak to your doctor about the best course of action and to learn more about potential side effects and drug interactions.

If you’re continuing to take Xanax without your doctor’s approval or despite negative consequences, it may be a sign of a Xanax addiction. The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to discuss addiction treatment options that may suit your needs.

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Editor – Erica Weiman
Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master's in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Xanax Package Insert.”  August 2011. Accessed October 17, 2021.

Noyes, R, et al. “Seizures Following the Withdrawal of Alprazolam.” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, January 1986. Accessed October 17, 2021.

BMJ – British Medical Journal.  “Widely used sedatives/sleeping pills […], study suggests.” December 5, 2012. Accessed October 17, 2021.

Drugs.com. “Drug Interaction Report: Xanax (alprazol[…]and diphenhydramine.” Accessed October 17, 2021.

Drugs.com. “Drug Interaction Report: Xanax (alprazol[…]lu Nighttime Relief.” Accessed October 17, 2021.

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.