Due to the way it affects certain parts of the brain – in this case the centers responsible for regulating emotional regulation and response – Xanax abuse (especially over long periods of time) can lead to mood swings and distressing outbursts of emotion that can even become violent. And because the user’s brain and thought patterns become affected over time, they may not even understand that their emotions have become so out of control.
These emotional side effects commonly lead to depression and suicidal thoughts in users, possibly leading to them to self-harm or suicide and making them even more likely to continue escalating their substance abuse.
Because these drugs affect the central nervous system much like alcohol does, they can lead to a lowered sense of inhibition and an increase in risk-taking behaviors. This combined with a loss of coordination, visual-spatial difficulties, and slowed response time, means tasks that may be easily performed while sober can become dangerous, causing injuries to both users as well as those around them.
Falls and cuts from sharp objects are common, but the biggest dangers can come from trying to do things like driving a car while under the influence of these kinds of medications.
One of the well-documented side effects of Xanax is memory damage or the inability to form memories while taking the drug. This has to do with the way it affects the areas of the brain responsible for forming short- and long-term memories, and it can be especially pronounced when the drug is combined with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol.
There is conflicting information out there about the risk of overdose with medications like Xanax. When taken in appropriate doses, as prescribed, this risk is low. However, when taken in high doses or combined with other substances like alcohol or opiate pain medications, the risk becomes much higher.
Symptoms of benzodiazepine overdose may include:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty breathing
Alcohol is especially dangerous when paired with benzodiazepine drugs, as it has what’s called a synergistic reaction, magnifying the way they affect the central nervous system. This can lead to a dangerous drop in heart rate and respiration that could cause a person to slip into a coma or stop breathing.
In addition, as the liver prioritizes metabolizing alcohol over most other substances, combining alcohol with Xanax can also lead to a build up of the drug in the body, further increasing the risk of overdose.