Xanax and Hydrocodone: A Dangerous Combination

When taking medications, understanding any possible drug interactions is a critical but often overlooked component to one’s health. Before taking medication, one should know its associated side effects and any adverse reactions it could have with other substances.

What Is Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a commonly prescribed and abused prescription drug. It’s classified as a benzodiazepine, and as such, it is most often prescribed to treat anxiety or panic disorders. Chronic anxiety is among the most prevalent psychological disorders, which is the main reasons why Xanax is so frequently prescribed. When a person uses Xanax, the active ingredient attaches itself to the brain’s GABA receptors, which reduces neural activity and relieves symptoms of anxiety. Less commonly, Xanax is prescribed for conditions that involve seizures, insomnia or detox from alcohol. Common side effects of Xanax include drowsiness, dizziness or lightheadedness, concentration difficulties, and digestive problems. Among the most serious risks related to Xanax are abuse, dependence, and addiction. There is also the potential for Xanax to be habit-forming, which is why doctors are encouraged to only prescribe it for short-term use. Moreover, it’s possible to become addicted or physically dependent after just a few weeks of use, and Xanax can interact with other substances including alcohol and narcotic pain relievers such as hydrocodone.

What is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller that is commonly found in brand name pharmaceutical drugs such as Vicodin and Norco and is indicated for the treatment of moderate-severe pain. As is the case with the aforementioned medications, hydrocodone is frequently found in formulations that also include the pain reliever acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol.) Hydrocodone is a controlled substance as it has a relatively high potential for addiction. The non-medical use of this drug and other prescription opioids have risen dramatically in recent years. Hydrocodone works by binding to specific receptors in the user’s brain that depress central nervous system (CNS) activity as pain sensations are relieved. Unfortunately, it’s relatively easy to become addicted to hydrocodone and other opioids. Among the most common symptoms of hydrocodone use include drowsiness and euphoria, nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness and headaches. Other adverse symptoms include confusion, anxiety, fear, mood swings, lethargy, and mental impairment.

Can I Take Xanax and Hydrocodone Together?

Unless carefully prescribed by a physician, you should never take Xanax and hydrocodone at the same time. There can be severe, even fatal consequences that can result from combining Xanax and hydrocodone. Xanax and hydrocodone both reduce CNS activity, a system that is responsible for the essential functions that keep the body alive, including breathing and heart function. If someone uses more than one substance that affects the central nervous system in this manner, it can depress respiration to the point of oversedation. A user may also slip into a coma or ultimately die from multidrug intoxication. Many emergency department visits related to overdoses are the result of someone combining benzos and opioids. These overdoses often occur because someone is using Xanax and hydrocodone recreationally, and they use too much in an attempt to get high. There is a significant risk of overdose or death when using Xanax in combination with hydrocodone, but there is also a dramatic increase in the chance of becoming dependent or addicted to one or both of these drugs.

What is CNS Depression?

The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. It is responsible for the regulation of most bodily functions by transmitting messages between the brain and other nerves by way of the spinal cord. CNS depressants are drugs and other substances that reduce activity in the CNS. Many CNS depressants, including Xanax, work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that suppresses the delivery of messages between cells. Symptoms Mild symptoms of CNS depression include:

  • lack of coordination and muscle weakness
  • lethargy
  • dizziness and disorientation
  • slurred speech or stuttering
  • slight shortness of breath or shallow breathing
  • slightly reduced heart rate
  • constipation
  • restlessness and agitation
  • euphoria
  • blurred, altered, or double vision

Symptoms of severe CNS depression include:

  • reduced heart rate
  • low breathing rate – less than 10 breaths per minute
  • extreme confusion or memory loss
  • nausea and vomiting
  • poor judgment
  • blue lips or fingertips (cyanosis)
  • irritability and aggression
  • clammy or cold skin
  • sudden and intense mood swings
  • slow reflexes

If a person is experiencing these symptoms, medical care should be sought immediately. Ultimately, severe symptoms can lead to an overdose, which can result in unresponsiveness, coma, and death.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a chronic, destructive disease that impairs the ability of the person suffering to function mentally, emotionally, professionally, academically, and socially. Drug addiction is most effectively treated through the use of a supervised medical detox followed immediately by long-term therapy and counseling. Our medical and mental health providers present our clients with the opportunity to obtain the knowledge and skills that they need to fully recover from drug addiction, regain their lives, and experience the happiness and HARMONY they deserve.

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