Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol with Benzodiazepines?

When it comes to mixers… other drugs are never a good choice.

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Not all cases of generalized anxiety disorder or depression warrant treatment with medications. However, consulting with a psychiatrist may result in prescriptions for antidepressants. Common antidepressants include selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

There's another class of medications that can also help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression called benzodiazepines. They're usually added to your regimen and tend to have a stronger effect than SSRIs and SSNIs. But, they can also come with more risks than a standard antidepressant.

What Are “Benzos?”

Benzodiazepines are usually only prescribed for short periods of time to diffuse more intense cases of anxiety. They start acting quickly and for a shorter duration of time. On the other hand, antidepressants like SSRIs and SNRIs can be taken indefinitely (as prescribed) and provide all-day relief.

Benzodiazepines like alprazolam, clonazepam, or lorazepam also have a higher risk of dependence. For this reason, you’ll need to carefully taper off them (if you’re using them regularly) under doctor supervision.

Don't stop taking your prescribed benzodiazepine cold turkey, or without discussing it with your doctor. Moreover, you should know that it can stay in your body for up to five days after taking it, even after weaning off of it appropriately.

Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol With Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines have a sedating effect on the central nervous system. That's why they can cause similar side effects to those of alcohol, like:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Trouble balancing
  • Lack of focus
  • Loss of memory

But taking alcohol and benzodiazepines together can worsen the other’s side effects. Mixing them may lead to intense impairment and dangerous symptoms, such as:

  • Intense confusion and paranoia
  • Disinhibited actions
  • Labored breathing
  • Suicidal thoughts or even actions

The combined effects can in turn worsen anxiety. Plus, the serious impairment could threaten your health and safety. For these reasons, it’s safest to lay off alcohol while taking benzodiazepines.

If you’re under the influence of alcohol, it might be harder to assess how well your meds are working. Avoiding alcohol will give you a better idea of how your medication is making you feel and whether it’s helping your symptoms. If it isn't improving your symptoms, you and your psychiatrist may need to go a different route.