Over the past several years, alcohol abuse has been steadily on the rise in the U.S. For many people, alcohol is a numbing agent turned to in times of stress.
In some cases, drinking alcohol is an act used to relieve symptoms associated with anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for intermittent or social alcohol use to transition into alcohol addiction when it becomes excessive.
When alcohol enters the body, it quickly creates a domino effect of physiological reactions. Much of this directly affects the central nervous system.
The effects of alcohol on the central nervous system tend to be depressant. For some individuals, alcohol translates to more of a stimulant.
In both cases, alcohol can simultaneously decrease the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. That can be extremely dangerous and directly affect a person’s ability to make decisions or regulate emotions.
When a rational thought process is reduced, an individual may consider mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines (benzos). These substances could also be mixed before consuming alcohol if the user wants to enhance stimulating effects or numb symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Either way, the dangers of mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines are vast. From short-term side effects and long-term health issues to the risk of fatality, no one should ignore the dangers of mixing benzos and alcohol.
Benzodiazepines are medications that belong in the classes of drugs known as psychoactive sedatives. They’re often prescribed to patients suffering from anxiety, seizures, cerebral palsy, or mental health disorders. The effects of benzodiazepine can help treat patients dealing with sleep issues, too.
When taken according to prescription regulations, benzos can prove productive in helping people overcome both physical and mental challenges. However, abusing these drugs can quickly lead to substance use disorder. For this reason, the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies all benzodiazepines as controlled substances. Commonly prescribed benzos include but aren’t limited to:
Much like alcohol, benzos directly affect the central nervous system as a depressant. They also reduce neurotransmitter activity in the brain.
This enhanced effect makes mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol that much more dangerous to the body. While they are commonly prescribed, it’s important to note that benzodiazepines are not for long-term use.
Why Some Overlook the Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Benzodiazepines
Combining alcohol with any other highly addictive substance always presents a health risk. That said, many people aren’t aware of just how quickly the dangers of mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines can present themselves.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, benzos are most commonly abused with opioids, alcohol, or other prescribed benzos. There are several possible reasons why someone might willingly overlook the risk of combining these substances.
In some cases, benzos are mixed with alcohol to heighten the effects alcohol has on the body. Those who try combining the two substances tend to be already struggling with mental health or reckless behavior. Therefore, they’re willing to ignore the dangers of mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines.
Another reason someone may combine benzos and alcohol is accessibility. Benzos are commonly prescribed medications. That makes them widely available in social situations and highly tempting for those already struggling with substance abuse.
In other situations, people disregard the dangers of mixing alcohol with benzodiazepines due to misinformation. Many people are under the false impression that mixing benzos with alcohol has a less dangerous side effect than mixing benzos with an illicit drug.
The Very Real Risks of Mixing Benzos and Alcohol
When two depressants mix, the central nervous system may be suppressed to dangerous levels. That is exactly what happens when people take alcohol and benzos.
Mixing these substances causes the user to participate in unnecessarily risky behavior. That can lead to potential injury and even death. In some cases, the central nervous system gets suppressed to a point where the user quickly becomes unconscious.
Dangerous Side Effects
As soon as alcohol and benzos combine in the human body, the user experiences heightened side effects. This significant fluctuation can be severe and comes with life-threatening risks.
In the vast majority of cases, typical side effects can include:
● Suppressed breathing
● Loss of consciousness
● Reduced cognition
● Loss of coordination
● Depression of immune systems
● Organ failure
While all of these side effects pose a health risk, they can quickly prove fatal in combination. Examples of extreme bodily harm related to mixing alcohol and benzos can include stroke and cirrhosis of the liver.
Even if the side effects of mixing these substances don’t cause immediate bodily harm, the addictive effects of benzos and alcohol may affect the user in the long term. It’s not uncommon for those who begin to mix alcohol and benzos to develop an addiction to one or both.
The intense “high” created by using these substances together can leave the body demanding increased dosages to achieve the same feelings of euphoria. Trying to reduce intake can subsequently lead to symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. If a user is experiencing alcohol withdrawal as well as withdrawal symptoms linked to benzos, the effects can be overwhelming.
In these situations, many users will frequently ingest more than they intended. That can result in an unintentional and fatal overdose.
Other Risks Related to Mixing Alcohol and Benzos Worth Considering
Early on, a person suffering from addiction may cling to the idea that they can stop using the substances in question whenever they want. There is a false sense of control that becomes just as dangerous as the addiction itself.
Unfortunately, addiction goes far beyond a simple desire to satisfy a craving. An addiction is a disease that requires participation in specialized treatment programs to manage and eradicate.
Until an addict gets to the point where they are willing to accept the benefits of time in a treatment center, regularly mixing alcohol and benzos will negatively affect many areas of their lives. Often, these adverse effects must reach a certain threshold for an addict to consider addiction treatment as an option. That can be true for alcoholism treatment and benzodiazepine treatment alike.
Many individuals who mix alcohol and benzos experience a noticeable decrease in their physical reactions to situations. The enhanced effects of depressants on the central nervous system can significantly reduce response times.
Ultimately, this also affects both gross and fine motor skills needed to keep up with the demand of daily living. That can make it nearly impossible for a person to carry out responsibilities either at work or home. It also puts them in a very dangerous position when they need to remove themselves from detrimental situations and can’t act quickly enough.
Additionally, those who mix alcohol and benzos over the long term will inevitably find themselves at a greater risk of developing a severe mental health disorder. Psychological conditions like anxiety and depression are commonly enhanced in those who participate in substance mixing of this type.
Beyond anxiety and depression, those who mix alcohol and benzos regularly are at risk for developing:
● Bipolar disorder
● Stressor-related disorders
● Psychotic disorders
The list of possibilities unquestionably extends beyond these disorders. However, poly-drug abusers are particularly prone to those listed above.
Long-term abuse of an alcohol and benzo combination poses many other health risks, as well. Addicts in this situation commonly develop severe gastrointestinal issues. They’re also at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular complications and disease.
There is a heightened risk of liver damage linked to the long-term mixing of alcohol and benzos. Today, many medical experts also believe there is a common link between dual substance abuse and an increased probability of developing dementia.
The frequent mixing of alcohol and benzodiazepines can also negatively impact relationships of all types. The cognitive and physical impairments linked to poly-drug abuse involving alcohol and benzos usually make it nearly impossible for individuals to thrive in a professional setting.
The constant suppression of neurotransmitters can cause significant fluctuations in mood and personality. That can make it extremely difficult to maintain meaningful relationships with family and friends.
Over time, an addict is drawn into a mindset that focuses exclusively on fulfilling the need for alcohol and benzos. That can force other goals一personal, professional, educational一out of the picture.
Finally, it’s important to note that every time alcohol and benzos mix in a human body, the risk of an overdose rises. The fatal ramifications of this dangerous practice are relevant to both of the substances in question. Death of this type is often linked to complete organ failure or brain damage from suppressed oxygen flow.
Ultimately, chronic abuse of alcohol and benzos has both immediate and long-term effects everyone should be aware of. Underestimating the risk can prove deadly.
Reach Out Today
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, the caring professionals at The Haven New England are here to help. Our premier drug and alcohol detox center is a place to heal and find the strength to take your life back. Reach out today to learn more about our treatment programs and to speak with a representative.