The Dangers of Mixing Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
If you or someone you care about uses benzodiazepines and alcohol, you can possibly be in great danger as mixing these two substances poses many risks. Knowing the risks, which include injury, overdose, and death, can help you make informed decisions for your health and wellbeing.
Using two or more substances at the same time is called “concurrent” or “polysubstance” use. This practice can be especially risky if you combine benzodiazepines (benzos) and alcohol.1
Concurrent benzodiazepine (benzo) and alcohol use is somewhat common. One study found that 7.5% of patients with unhealthy alcohol use also used benzodiazepines.2 Another study reports that:3
- Nearly half of people who misused benzos also misused other substances.
- The rate of benzo misuse was 4 times higher in people with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
- Roughly 58% of people who misused benzodiazepines said they were binge drinkers (meaning 4 or more drinks for a woman or 5 or more for a man in one sitting).3
Risks of Mixing Benzos with Alcohol
Combining benzos and alcohol can increase your risk of injury, overdose, and death.1 Alcohol and benzos are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants.1 This means they slow down (depress) your CNS, which can cause dangerous and possibly deadly effects.1 Using two or more CNS depressants together intensifies their effects, so you need less of each substance to cause serious problems.5
Some of the risks of mixing alcohol and benzodiazepines include:1
- Breathing problems.
- Brain damage.
- Heart damage.
- Slow heart rate.
- Falls and other injuries.
- Blackout or coma.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that half of all overdose deaths in 2019 involved more than one substance.1 One study reports that alcohol is involved in 1 in 4 emergency room visits due to benzo abuse and is also involved in 1 in 5 benzo-related emergency room deaths.5
Using benzos and alcohol together can also increase your risk of falls and other injuries. One study reports that people who use benzos are 5 times more likely to be injured while driving, and that risk greatly increases when a person uses alcohol and benzodiazepines together.10
How to Manage Benzodiazepine and Alcohol Withdrawal
Both benzodiazepine and alcohol withdrawal have similar symptoms.7–9 Stopping polysubstance use can lead to more severe withdrawal as well as these dangerous symptoms:7, 9
- Delirium (sudden, severe confusion).
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there).
- Delusions (ideas or beliefs that aren’t based in reality).
- Paranoia (deep mistrust of others).
- Dangerous changes to blood pressure, body temperature, or heart rate.
Because of these risks, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional before trying to quit or reduce benzodiazepines or alcohol on your own.9
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advises some form of 24-hour medical care for people withdrawing from alcohol or benzodiazepines for safety reasons and to reduce needless suffering.9 At an inpatient detox center, staff can closely watch your progress and keep you more safe and comfortable during this distressing time.1,9
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Finding Treatment for Benzodiazepine and Alcohol Withdrawal
If you or someone you care about is mixing benzos and alcohol, know that recovery is possible. Medical detox can help manage withdrawal from benzos and alcohol while keeping you or your loved one safe. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of alcohol and benzo detox and addiction treatment in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as across the nation. Our professional, caring staff and medical experts know how to treat polysubstance withdrawal and can help you get started on the path to recovery.