alcohol and benzos

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Benzos

If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol or pills, you’re not alone. While opioids get all the media coverage, the truth is that around 10% of all adults in the US struggle with substance abuse disorder.

The most common combination of substances is alcohol and pills, and one of the most common prescriptions is benzodiazepines. When you mix them with alcohol, it comes with some serious risks. Let’s talk about the dangers of mixing alcohol and benzos.

Alcohol And Benzos

Benzodiazepines are medications prescribed to treat anxiety and occasionally other ailments like seizures. Anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the US, and prescriptions are very common for treatment. The most common brand names for benzos are Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax, and Valium.

While they all have differences, they are psychoactive sedatives that were originally developed to be a less addictive alternative to barbiturates. However, they became the drug of choice for many people suffering from substance abuse disorder.

If somebody is an alcoholic, their dependency does not simply go away when they are prescribed a new medication. Whether or not they form an addiction to benzos, mixing alcohol and benzos comes with several risks.

Common Side Effects

While mixing these two substances is never recommended, there are some common side effects that have been observed, and they span a wide range. While each substance carries their own side effects, the combination increases their risks and creates some new ones. Some side effects include:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Organ failure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Decreased cognitive skills
  • Decreased physical reactions
  • Increased risks for side effects

That’s right, both substances come with side effects and you’re more likely to experience them from each when combined. Because of the decrease in your physical reaction, your depressed cognitive skills, and your unpredictable reactions to the combination, you will be at serious risk if you choose to drive or operate heavy machinery.

You will also be at a higher risk of long-term health effects from the two medications. This could mean cardiovascular disease, liver failure, kidney failure, or more. These side effects may seem extreme but they barely scratch the surface of the risks you face when combining these substances. There are more immediate concerns.


There are over 2,000 benzo overdoses admitted to the hospital each year. When combined with alcohol, that risk gets a lot higher.

When you mix these two substances, you will experience the effects of both, only at a much more elevated level. This is known as an enhanced effect. Mixing two substances that use the same mechanism of action will result in an increase in the effect of both individual substances. Making this a habit is particularly dangerous and life-threatening, and it should be avoided at all costs.

Because of the slow breathing effects and others side effects, the risk of overdose with two substances is a lot higher. Not only that, the enhanced effects make it more difficult to gauge the right dosage for yourself, especially in the early days of use.

What this means is that if you are used to drinking but not taking pills, you may know your usual limits with alcohol and think it’s safe to stay there. However, when the enhanced effect increases your intoxication, you put yourself at risk of overdose. Mixing two central nervous system depressants at the same time puts users at an enormous risk of overdose and death.


There’s no way around it. If you or a loved one are abusing alcohol and benzos at the same time, treatment is needed. Every moment without treatment is a moment at risk of serious complications, long-term ailments, and even death. Every moment with these two substances is a moment you and those around you spend at serious risk.

Cross-Addiction Treatment

There are treatment options available for cross-addiction or multi-drug dependence. The treatment should be inpatient and offer detox services along with therapy and support groups. This is the best bet to get you on the road to recovery.

Inpatient treatment is hard to beat. You get all the benefits of multiple outpatient services with the added benefit of eliminating temptation. You will be in a controlled environment with medical professionals who are there to help you, and you’ll be given the tools you need to stay sober for the long term once you’re back home.

Outpatient treatment will be beneficial once you are done with your initial treatment. This is great for maintaining your sobriety but it doesn’t offer all of the benefits of inpatient rehab.


If you’re concerned that a loved one is abusing multiple substances, the time to intervene is now. Don’t yell at them or try to force them into getting treatment, as this may only put them at greater risk.

Do your best to talk to them at their level, show compassion and understanding, and let them know that you’re there for support. From there, talk to them about treatment options. This is a critical step that needs to be done right, so learn how to properly intervene, and get them the help they need.

Don’t Put This Off

If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol and benzos, putting off treatment any longer comes with serious health risks. This doesn’t get easier, so take the first step now for the best results. Stay up to date with our latest recovery news, look for treatment today, and learn about the symptoms of alcohol detox.