Can I overdose on Xanax? This is a question many people ask. Although it is a prescription drug, overdosing on this drug is very possible. Typically, the more potent a substance is, or the more it is taken, the more likely it is that an overdose will occur. If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax addiction, it is important to know the dangers of abuse, the symptoms of overdose, and what to do if someone has overdosed. 

Dangers of Xanax Use 

When used as prescribed, Xanax alleviates anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, and other disorders in patients. A benzodiazepine, Xanax continues to be one of the most prescribed medications in the United States. Despite its benefits, Xanax is at high risk for abuse and is partially responsible for many deaths each year. A recent study in North Carolina found that overdose death rates were 10 times higher among individuals who consumed both benzodiazepine medications, like Xanax, and opioids compared to individuals who only consumed opioids. 

Prolonged use of Xanax has been linked to the premature development of dementia in some patients. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, the risk of developing dementia increased by 32 percent for people who had used benzodiazepine medications like Xanax for 3-6 months and by an alarming 84 percent in those who used it longer than six months.

Xanax abuse can cause many adverse reactions when abused on its own, but combining this benzodiazepine with other substances is extremely dangerous and one of the most common causes of overdose. When combined with alcohol, heart and breathing rates plummet, resulting in cardiac or respiratory suppression or arrest.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, the estimated number of Xanax-related emergency department visits doubled from 57,419 visits in 2005 to 124,902 visits in 2010 with 19 percent involving Xanax only and 39 percent involving a combination with another drug, most commonly alcohol. 

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on Xanax. While overdose on this prescription drug alone is not common, overdosing on a combination of Xanax and other drugs is.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23% of people who died from an opioid overdose in 2015 also tested positive for the presence of benzodiazepines.

How Much Xanax Does it Take to Overdose?

The quantity of Xanax required to overdose varies, particularly when other substances are involved. Xanax taken with drugs like alcohol or opioids is most frequently implicated in Xanax overdoses. Xanax purchased on the streets may also be counterfeit or mixed with fentanyl, an opioid that may be lethal if overdose occurs. Because of their sedative properties, benzos, alcohol, and opioids may suppress a person’s breathing or blood flow, which may be lethal if mixed with them. The FDA has issued a Black Box Warning because of this reason.

Factors that Contribute to Xanax Overdose

Xanax overdose can be influenced by a variety of physical and mental health factors including the following:

The Dosage

The quantity of Xanax consumed is undoubtedly the most critical aspect to consider when evaluating overdose risk. Prescription medications, regardless of their type, always come with specific instructions on how much to consume, when to consume it, and how to do so. The brain may become overwhelmed with too much gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity if excessive amounts of Xanax are taken, either intentionally or inadvertently, or if it’s combined with other substances. Regular Xanax use in this way may cause substance abuse and withdrawal symptoms once the person attempts to detox from it.

Mixing with Alcohol

The most common cause of Xanax overdoses is combining it with other drugs, particularly alcohol. Because of their depressive nature, both CNS depressants and alcohol slow things down. Alcohol and Xanax can produce harmful compounding effects when mixed, resulting in drug overdose. Symptoms such as spiked blood pressure, difficulty breathing, respiratory depression, loss of motor function, and other potentially fatal complications may result if these substances are combined.


How fast Xanax or other pharmaceuticals are absorbed is determined by the speed of the individual’s metabolism, as well as its overall health. Obesity is caused by poor eating habits, which can only be achieved through overeating. Obesity is connected to slower metabolism since frequently consuming heavily processed food can slow down the metabolism as it becomes clogged with fat. In an effort to achieve the desired outcome, an individual with a slower metabolism and higher body weight who has an substance abuse problem may require more and more Xanax, which may lead to an overdose.


The higher a person’s body weight, the more Xanax is required to obtain the desired effects. Xanax’s active ingredients must permeate through more muscle mass, fat deposits, and blood flow to achieve the same result. With this in mind, the larger a person is, the more Xanax is required to obtain a high. Xanax use can result in weight loss, which may increase the risk of overdose for some people.

What Happens During a Xanax Overdose?

Taking too much Xanax may suppress crucial brain chemicals, specifically GABA. Because GABA is a neurotransmitter that slows brain activity down, taking too much Xanax over time slows your brain down excessively. GABA slows down brain activity in the majority of cases, so having a Xanax overdose may lead to sedation, normal breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Many individuals who experience a Xanax overdose have mixed it with other substances, which makes the chances of overdose significantly greater.

Symptoms of a Xanax Overdose 

There are warning signs to look for if it is suspected that you or someone close is experiencing a Xanax overdose. The signs include: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Lack of Balance
  • Slurred speech 
  • Severe depression
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Yellow coloring of the eyes or skin
  • Seizures

Are Xanax Overdoses Fatal?

Xanax overdoses can be fatal, particularly if the dose is very high. Because it is a depressant, Xanax can cause your breathing to slow down, especially when taken in higher dosages. This condition, known as respiratory depression, can lead to oxygen deprivation, coma, or death if left untreated.

An overdose of Xanax can be deadly, but it is not common. Xanax is frequently present in those who have died of an overdose, but those deaths are not usually due to Xanax alone. Some of the dangerous interactions with other drugs include anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction.

What To Do in The Event of a Xanax Overdose

If someone is experiencing a Xanax overdose, you must call 911 right away. While you wait for medical assistance, try to keep the individual comfortable and conscious. If they begin having a seizure, remove nearby objects to prevent injury. 

Once on the scene, medical professionals may administer emergency medicine to help reverse overdose symptoms. The individual will then be taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and observation. In the event that a person survives an overdose, it is extremely important that they seek professional addiction treatment. 

If a Xanax overdose occurs, it is likely that it will happen again if the abuse is left untreated. 

What Happens After an Overdose on Xanax?

Adderall addiction

After surviving an overdose, the individual will require further evaluation. If someone is determined to be a danger to themselves, they may need to be hospitalized. A doctor will determine the sort of assistance required to assist an individual struggling with Xanax addiction and avoid future overdoses.

Because of how physically addictive Xanax is, people should not attempt to discontinue its use abruptly. Instead, they should wean themselves off of it under the supervision of a medical professional. Doing so will help minimize physical withdrawal symptoms and make life without Xanax more bearable. In addition, a less addictive anxiety medicine may be prescribed to help people manage their anxiety if they do have an anxiety disorder.

In order to overcome Xanax dependency, one needs to understand how they came to rely on it. Therefore, Xanax addiction is best treated in a dual diagnosis treatment program. Before addressing their Xanax dependence, the therapist should address the conditions that led to their abuse of the drug. After their addiction has been treated, their dependence on Xanax should be assessed. A therapist should have a comprehensive understanding of the connection between substance abuse and mental health. They should also be capable of developing a trustworthy relationship with their patients, as sensitive information may be shared during the therapy sessions.

Let Us Help 

Xanax is a highly addictive prescription benzodiazepine that is very dangerous when abused.  If you or a loved one is struggling with Xanax addiction, we are here to help. 

Addiction is a devastating disease and you do not have to fight it alone. The founders of Asheville Recovery Center, as well as many of our addiction therapists, have struggled with addiction and now enjoy life in recovery. They understand the struggles of addiction and how difficult it is to overcome on your own.

At Asheville Recovery Center, treatment specialists have developed a unique, hybrid model of treatment which combines a traditional 12-step program with holistic rehabilitation. A multitude of services, programs, and therapies are offered, including the Partial Hospitalization Program, Residential-style treatment, outpatient rehabilitation, and more. 

 If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828) 518-6996 and speak with an addiction expert today so you can take the first step towards a rewarding life of sobriety.

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