If you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are about to begin treatment, you should know that anxiety medication and alcohol do not mix. Ignore this warning and you’ll be putting your health and possibly even your life at risk.
Why Alcohol and Anxiety Medication Are So Dangerous in Combination
Drugs called benzodiazepines are the most frequently prescribed type of anxiety medication. Xanax (alprazolam) is the most well-known and widely consumed benzodiazepine; other options in this drug class include Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam) and Valium (diazepam). Benzodiazepines act as central nervous system depressants, taking the edge off anxiety and leaving users feeling more relaxed and blissful. Alcohol also suppresses activity in the central nervous system, and when alcohol and benzodiazepines are taken in combination, the sedative effect can be overwhelming and extremely dangerous. If you have a prescription for an anxiety medication like Xanax and choose to drink alcohol while under the influence of this drug, you may experience:
- Excessive drowsiness
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Deterioration in motor skills
- Slowed heart rate
- Respiratory distress
- Loss of consciousness leading to coma
In addition to benzodiazepines, antidepressants are also prescribed quite often for anxiety disorders. Antidepressant medications like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa modulate the brain’s supply of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood and promotes emotional stability and equilibrium. Alcohol also affects serotonin levels, and when antidepressants are mixed with alcohol, it can cause a yo-yo effect, as serotonin fluctuates between scarcity and abundance. When too much is present, increased anxiety and agitation is the result. But when serotonin levels drop, the person can experience feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide, either of which may become chronic (suicide is the leading cause of antidepressant-related deaths).
Anxiety Disorders and Alcohol Don’t Mix
If you’re looking for a way to control your anxiety disorder, anxiety medication plus evidence-based psychological counseling is a far more sensible combination than anxiety medication and alcohol. In some cases, the therapy alone may be enough to give you relief, but if you do need medication as well, you can increase your chances of recovery if you stay away from alcohol altogether. Many anxiety disorder sufferers turn to alcohol to help them cope with their conditions. But alcohol only offers temporary relief from anxiety, and if you try to drink your way out of an anxiety disorder, you’ll only drink yourself into an addiction treatment facility in the end. Sources: Help Guide.org: Anxiety Medication: What You Need to Know about Anti-Anxiety Drugs Medical Daily: Drinking Alcohol While Taking Antidepressants Could Exacerbate Depression, Increase Drug’s Side Effects