In the treatment of mental health conditions, it is common to see a person diagnosed with co-existing conditions, for example, depression simultaneously diagnosed with anxiety. Because of this fact, a person may be treated with medications from multiple drug classes simultaneously to manage symptoms from different conditions.
Xanax and trazodone are two commonly prescribed medications that work differently. However, due to overlap in the conditions that they are used to treat, it is possible to see them prescribed together. The mixing of trazodone and Xanax may provide additional benefit toward an individual’s treatment, however, it also increases the risk of side effects and interactions.
Understanding how Xanax and trazodone work and the risks associated with mixing these two medications is critical to recognizing possible side effects and achieving treatment success.
How Do Trazodone and Xanax Work?
Xanax and trazodone both affect certain chemicals in the brain that are known as neurotransmitters. The specific neurotransmitters that are affected and how they are affected are the factors responsible for how trazodone and Xanax work.
Xanax is the brand name for the medication alprazolam. Xanax is a benzodiazepine indicated for use in the treatment of anxiety disorders and panic disorders. Xanax works by increasing the action of the neurotransmitter GABA which slows down and inhibits processes in certain neurons and nerves.
It is recommended that Xanax is only used for short-term treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, which is four months or less, according to the manufacturer. This timeline is recommended because Xanax has a high risk of physical dependence and addiction.
Trazodone, also known by the brand names Oleptro or Desyrel, is an antidepressant indicated for the treatment of depression and is sometimes used for the treatment of insomnia. Trazodone is classified as an atypical antidepressant and works by causing an increase of the neurotransmitter serotonin which is associated with the regulation of mood and emotion.
Dangers of Mixing Trazodone and Xanax
There are many reasons why someone may take trazodone and Xanax together. However, if both of these medications are used simultaneously, it is important to understand the dangers associated with mixing these medications.
Benzodiazepines, including Xanax, are classified as central nervous system (CNS) depressants because they cause a slowing of certain brain processes and functions. Trazodone has a warning for enhancing the negative effects of CNS depressants.
Negative effects of Xanax that may be enhanced by trazodone include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Impaired coordination
Of note, alcohol is also classified as a CNS depressant, like Xanax. If alcohol, Xanax and trazodone are taken together, the combination could cause a severe slowing of brain processes and could have severe consequences. Therefore, people should limit their alcohol consumption or limit their drinking while taking Xanax or trazodone, either alone or together.
Also, trazodone and Xanax each carry serious risks independent of one another. For example, trazodone has a risk of suicidal thoughts in children and young adults and has a serious side effect known as serotonin syndrome caused by a rapid increase in serotonin levels.
Xanax has a high potential for causing physical dependence which can produce withdrawal reactions, including seizures. When making the decision with a doctor to start taking new medications, it is important to consider all of the risks and benefits of taking a certain medication or mixing medications.
Side Effects of Mixing Xanax and Trazodone
The common side effects associated with mixing Xanax and trazodone are generally due to the overlap of side effects that each medication causes.
Common side effects of mixing Xanax and trazodone include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Impaired thinking, judgment, and coordination
Due to these common side effects, it is recommended that a person avoid activities that require mental alertness, such as driving until they know how these medications affect them. If someone is experiencing any of these side effects from these medications, it is important to talk to a doctor and discuss any changes that may be needed.
Key Points: Xanax and Trazodone
Due to the potential for serious side effects, it is important to keep these points about Xanax and Trazadone use in mind:
- It is always important for someone to keep an accurate list of any and all medications they are taking and to share this list with health care providers
- Xanax and trazodone are medications that work differently and they affect different chemicals in the brain
- The mixing of trazodone and Xanax may provide additional benefit toward an individual’s treatment; however, it also increases the risk of side effects, including excessive fatigue, confusion, dizziness, and impaired cognition
- It is recommended to avoid or limit the use of alcohol while taking Xanax or trazodone because mixing these substances can cause a severe slowing of brain processes and can be very dangerous
- If you are experiencing side effects from these medications, it is important to talk to your doctor and discuss any changes that may help decrease your side effects
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Bushnell, Greta; Sturmer, Til; Gaynes, Bradley. “Simultaneous Antidepressant and Benzodiazepine New Use and Subsequent Long-term Benzodiazepine Use in Adults with Depression, United States, 2011-2014.” JAMA Psychiatry, July 2017. Accessed June 16, 2019. Drugs.com. “Drug interactions between trazodone and Xanax.” May 2019. Accessed June 16, 2019. The Food and Drug Administration. “Xanax.” June 2011. Accessed June 16, 2019. The Food and Drug Administration. “Desyrel.” June 2011. Accessed June 16, 2019.
Bushnell, Greta; Sturmer, Til; Gaynes, Bradley. “Simultaneous Antidepressant and Benzodiazepine New Use and Subsequent Long-term Benzodiazepine Use in Adults with Depression, United States, 2011-2014.” JAMA Psychiatry, July 2017. Accessed June 16, 2019.
Drugs.com. “Drug interactions between trazodone and Xanax.” May 2019. Accessed June 16, 2019.
The Food and Drug Administration. “Xanax.” June 2011. Accessed June 16, 2019.
The Food and Drug Administration. “Desyrel.” June 2011. Accessed June 16, 2019.