The Dangers of Mixing Oxycodone and Xanax

Oxycodone and Xanax are a dangerous mix. Both drugs have strong sedative effects and may cause respiratory suppression, coma and death when combined. If you or someone you care about has overdosed on oxycodone and Xanax, call 911 for help.
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Oxycodone is a common prescription painkiller and frequent drug of misuse. Taken alone, oxycodone has strong and even dangerous sedative effects. But combining it with Xanax can be a recipe for disaster.

Mixing oxycodone with Xanax or other benzodiazepines may cause profound sedation, breathing trouble, coma and death. Nearly a quarter of people who died from an opioid overdose in 2015 also had a benzodiazepine in their system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Government Warning

Illicit use of opioids and benzodiazepines is part of the problem. But overprescribing by doctors is also fueling the crisis.

Between 2002 and 2014, the number of patients who received prescriptions for both a benzodiazepine and an opioid painkiller rose by 41 percent, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The problem is so serious that in 2016 the FDA issued a special warning about the dangers of mixing the drugs.

“It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together.”— Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf

The FDA cautioned medical providers not to prescribe both medications unless there is no other treatment alternative. If the drugs are prescribed at the same time, patients should receive the smallest dose and take the drugs for the shortest time possible.

Both drugs now contain black box warnings to inform patients of the dangers.

Effects of Oxycodone and Xanax

Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines to treat anxiety, insomnia and other conditions. Recreational use of Xanax is also common.

Xanax, or alprazolam, binds with GABA receptors in the brain to cause relaxation. Common side effects of Xanax include fatigue, drowsiness and lethargy. Higher doses may cause dizziness, slurred speech, and balance or coordination problems.

Oxycodone is also a potent central nervous system depressant. Serious oxycodone side effects include: nausea, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, difficulty breathing, extreme drowsiness and lightheadedness.

Combining the two drugs enhances these effects and can suppress a person’s automatic breathing reflex and put their life at risk.

Signs and symptoms that a person may be in danger of an oxycodone and Xanax overdose include:

  • Unusual dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Slow or erratic breathing
  • Unresponsiveness

Other signs of an overdose include: bluish lips or fingers, pinpoint pupils and deep snorting or gurgling sounds.

If you are experiencing any of the above reactions, call your doctor and seek immediate medical attention. Similar symptoms can occur if you mix oxycodone and alcohol. Combining oxycodone and alcohol can also result in death.

How Treatment Can Help

While most oxycodone and Xanax overdoses are unintentional, some people mix the drugs for a more intense high. If you are struggling with an oxycodone addiction, help is available.

Quitting oxycodone or Xanax after a long period of use can make a person very sick. Medical detox can help ease the pain and agony of oxycodone withdrawal or Xanax withdrawal.

After detox is complete, rehab can help a person overcome the diseaseof addiction.

Learn more about Percocet addiction

Learn more about OxyContin addiction

Rehab usually involves a combination of one-on-one and group counseling and behavioral therapy. These therapies will help you understand the underlying reasons for your addiction. You’ll also learn to develop healthy coping mechanisms to help avoid relapse.

Medications can help ease cravings and improve a person’s chances of staying sober. Opioid replacement therapy can reduce the chance of a person dying from an opioid overdose. It involves taking medications such as methadone or buprenorphine that prevent or ease withdrawal and reduce opioid cravings.

The number of expected deaths among people who use opioids dropped by more than two-thirds when they were prescribed methadone, according to a 2017 review published in medical journal BMJ. The authors said buprenorphine probably has similar benefits but requires more study.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer,
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.
Kim Borwick, MA

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