An estimated 4.38 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States in 2019, alone. As a country, the U.S. is ranked number 1 in benzodiazepine and opioid prescriptions. As legal substances, prescription drugs can be insidious as they are commonly habit-forming and lethal when abused. Unlike illicit substances, prescription drugs are easily accessible and likely to be replenished due to the common disorders they treat, ranging from anxiety and insomnia to chronic pain. A specific combination is extremely dangerous and oftentimes lethal: Xanax and OxyContin. To understand the severity of combining these two drugs, it is important to understand the effects of each individually.


Xanax is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States with over 20 million active prescriptions in circulation within the U.S. today. This benzodiazepine is commonly prescribed to combat anxiety, panic disorders, and insomnia. When following the prescribed dosage, Xanax is relatively safe and effective in treating these disorders, however, the sedating properties of this drug put it at high risk for abuse. Similar to alcohol, Xanax is also a Central Nervous System Depressant. Xanax works by enhancing the brain chemical GABA which is primarily responsible for relaxation and sedation. Combining these two depressants generates dangerously high levels of sedation, potentially leading to overdose fatality. 


This powerful painkiller is twice as potent as morphine and, as of 2018, is prescribed over 16 million times per year. As an opioid,OxyContin provides pain relief by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain. OxyContin, along with other synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids, are at the center of the current opioid epidemic due to the high likelihood of dependence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 41 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2018 alone.

The Dangers of Using Xanax and OxyContin

Xanax and OxyContin 

Both Xanax and OxyContin are classified as Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants. When taken simultaneously, the body absorbs the painkilling properties of OxyContin as well as the sedative properties of Xanax. This causes the body’s vital organs to become dangerously sedate, frequently resulting in cardiac and respiratory arrest or failure. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, between 1999 and 2006 there were 18,893 prescription painkiller-related overdose deaths in the US; more than half of those overdoses were due to a combination of opioid painkillers and another medication, most typically benzodiazepines.

Once this dangerous interaction was discovered, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for prescribing these drugs, recommending that clinicians avoid prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids together whenever possible. Both drugs now include FDA “black box” warnings on the label highlighting the dangers of using these drugs simultaneously. The graph below depicts the increase in overdose fatalities when taking these prescription drugs concurrently. 

The Dangers of Using Xanax and OxyContin

Asheville Recovery Center Can Help 

Xanax and OxyContin can be both highly addictive and life-threatening when abused on their own; especially when combined. That is why it is extremely important to seek help immediately if you or a loved one is struggling with any substance addiction. 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. 

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 alone. If you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse, our specialists are on standby and ready to help. Call (828)383-0784 and speak with an addiction expert today.

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