Xanax Overdose

Xanax pills on the ground laying next to the hand of a person who overdosed

Xanax, the brand name of the drug alprazolam, is one of the most-prescribed medicines for anxiety disorders. As a powerful benzodiazepine, Xanax binds to GABA receptors in the brain to stimulate a feeling of calm. Though the drug can work well, Xanax and other benzodiazepines are highly addictive and can easily be misused.

Due to its addictive potential, people suffering from other substance use disorders or anxiety disorders can become addicted to Xanax. Someone may also combine this drug with other substances, which substantially increases the danger of this drug. This type of use begs the question, “Can you overdose on Xanax.” How much Xanax it takes to overdose can vary from person to person. 

Xanax Overdose Symptoms

Xanax overdose symptoms are similar to symptoms of overdose for all benzodiazepines. It is crucial to watch loved ones for signs of Xanax overdose, especially if they are using other substances in addition to Xanax. The effects of Xanax overdose include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Weakness
  • Impaired cognition
  • Slowed or weak breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Hallucinations

Risk Factors for Xanax Overdose

The strongest risk factor for Xanax overdose is the use of another drug or alcoholic substance. Most hospital visits result from taking Xanax with another substance. Since opioid drugs and benzodiazepines both suppress breathing rates, combining the two drugs greatly increases the risk of death from overdose. In fact, estimates show that 75% of overdose deaths involve both benzodiazepines and opioids. 

Taking Vicodin and Xanax also increases the likelihood of overdose. If you are taking opioid pain medication and take Xanax, you increase the risk of breathing difficulty, coma and death. Xanax in combination with alcohol increases overdose as well. In 2011, drugs similar to Xanax were responsible for 123,572 out of 606,653 (20.4%) emergency room visits involving both drugs and alcohol. Elderly people and young children are also at greater risk of overdose. If you have a prescription for Xanax, please keep it well out of reach of children. 

Can Xanax Overdose Kill You?

Xanax overdose deaths are relatively uncommon when the drug is used on its own. In a study of hospital visits due to Xanax overdose, the average drug ingestion was 23 times the average prescription amount. 

However, fatal overdose due to Xanax is much more common in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Xanax was responsible for 17% of drug-related deaths in West Virginia, but 97.5% of those cases involved another drug. 

Xanax Overdose Statistics

In 2013, Xanax overdose was the second most common medication involved in emergency room visits. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Xanax was responsible for 4,066 deaths in the U.S. from 2011 to 2016. It was also involved in the following incidents:

  • 26% of overdose deaths involving hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • 22% of deaths involving methadone
  • 25% of deaths where oxycodone was implicated

Xanax Overdose Treatment

In cases of overdose, most patients are given assisted ventilation to help with their breathing and are supported in a hospital until stable. The antidote used in Xanax overdose treatment is flumazenil, which is a highly controversial drug that carries significant risks for patients. 

The best treatment is prevention. If you or a loved one is taking Xanax, make sure the correct dose is taken and that no other substances are used without permission from a health care provider.

If you suffer from anxiety and feel you are addicted to Xanax, alcohol or other substances, The Recovery Village Ridgefield is here to help. Contact us today to learn about treatment options and begin your path to recovery.

Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A.S., Sharma, S., Blevins, D. “A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal.” J Addict Med, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Gresham, C. “Benzodiazepine Toxicity Clinical Presentation.” Medscape, June 13, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Drugs.com. “Drug Interactions Between Vicodin and Xanax.” Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2019.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits.” 2013. Accessed July 24, 2019.

Isbister, G.K., O’Regan, L., Sibbritt, D., Whyte, I.M. “Alprazolam is relatively more toxic than other benzodiazepines in overdose.” Br J Clin Pharmacol, 2004. Accessed July 25, 2019.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Drug Overdose Deaths: United States, 2011–2016.” December 12, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2019.

Medscape Reference. “Flumazenil.” (n.d.). Accessed July 24, 2019.

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