Can Xanax Kill You?

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Xanax, also known by its generic name, alprazolam,  is a prescription medication classified as a benzodiazepine. When used as directed and under the supervision of a healthcare professional, Xanax can be safe and effective for treating anxiety and panic disorders. However, like any medication, there are potential risks associated with its use.

Xanax can sedate the central nervous system, and misuse or abuse of the drug can lead to various complications, including overdose, dependence, and even death. Taking excessive Xanax or combining it with other substances such as alcohol or opioids can increase the risk of serious consequences, including respiratory depression, coma, and fatal overdose.

It is essential to use Xanax only as a healthcare professional prescribes and follows the recommended dosage instructions. Suppose you have concerns about Xanax or its potential risks. In that case, it is discussing with a healthcare provider who can provide personalized advice and guidance based on your specific situation.

If you or someone you love has a substance use disorder, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We are dedicated to providing the most comprehensive and individualized medically monitored detox program. To learn more about our programs, contact us today.

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Can Xanax Use Kill You?

While proper use of Xanax under medical supervision is generally considered safe, it is important to understand that any medication, including Xanax, can have risks and potential adverse effects. Taking Xanax as a healthcare professional prescribes and following the recommended dosage instructions greatly reduces the likelihood of severe complications.

However, misusing or abusing Xanax can be dangerous and potentially fatal. Taking excessive doses, using it without a prescription, or combining it with other substances like alcohol or opioids significantly increases the risk of serious consequences, including respiratory depression, overdose, coma, and death.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the United States, benzodiazepines, including Xanax, were involved in many overdose deaths. In 2019, approximately 9,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. involved benzodiazepines alone or in combination with other substances.

The misuse and abuse of Xanax have also been reported. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that emergency department visits related to the non-medical use of benzodiazepines, including Xanax, increased from 57,419 visits in 2005 to 124,902 in 2010 in the U.S.

What Is the Risk of Death From Xanax Overdose?

Xanax (alprazolam) overdose can be potentially life-threatening. The risk of death from a Xanax overdose is influenced by various factors, including the dosage taken, individual tolerance, whether it was taken with other substances, and the overall health of the person involved.

Xanax is a central nervous system depressant that can cause sedation and respiratory depression when taken in high doses. An overdose of Xanax can lead to severe suppression of the respiratory system, which can result in oxygen deprivation and, in extreme cases, death.

The risk of a fatal Xanax overdose is significantly increased when combined with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol or opioids. Combining these substances can compound the sedative effects, suppress breathing to a dangerous extent, and increase the likelihood of a fatal outcome.

What Are the Factors That Increase the Risk of Death From Xanax Overdose?

Several factors can increase the risk of death from a Xanax (alprazolam) overdose. These factors include:

  • High Dosage – Taking a higher dose of Xanax than prescribed or recommended significantly increases the risk of an overdose. The higher the dose, the greater the potential for adverse effects, including respiratory depression and other life-threatening complications.
  • Individual Tolerance – Tolerance refers to the body’s adaptation to a substance over time. Individuals who have developed tolerance to Xanax may require higher doses to achieve the desired effect. However, this also means that they may be at a higher risk of experiencing an overdose if they take larger amounts to compensate for their tolerance.
  • Combining Substances – Concurrent use of Xanax with other substances, especially central nervous system depressants like alcohol or opioids, can have synergistic effects. Combining these substances can intensify the sedative and respiratory-depressing effects, significantly increasing the risk of a fatal overdose.
  • Previous History of Substance Abuse – Individuals with a history of substance abuse, particularly benzodiazepines or other sedatives, may be more prone to misusing Xanax and engaging in risky behaviors that can lead to an overdose.
  • Underlying Health Conditions – Pre-existing health conditions, such as respiratory problems, liver or kidney dysfunction, or compromised cardiovascular health, can increase the risk of severe complications from a Xanax overdose.

What Dosage of Xanax Is Required to Overdose?

The dosage of Xanax (alprazolam) required to overdose can vary depending on several factors, including individual tolerance, body weight, overall health, and whether other substances are involved. What may be a safe dose for one person can be potentially dangerous for another.

Xanax has different strengths, including 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg, and 2 mg tablets. The prescribed dosage for anxiety and panic disorders typically ranges from 0.25 mg to 4 mg daily, divided into multiple doses.

An overdose can occur when an individual takes a significantly higher dose than prescribed or when Xanax is combined with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. It is important to note that even exceeding the prescribed dose by a small margin can increase the risk of experiencing adverse effects and potential overdose.

Can Withdrawal Symptoms From Xanax Use Cause Death?

While withdrawal symptoms from Xanax (alprazolam) use can be uncomfortable and challenging, they typically do not directly cause death. However, the withdrawal process can be complicated and potentially dangerous if not managed properly, especially in individuals taking high doses of Xanax or using it for an extended period.

Stopping or significantly reducing Xanax after prolonged use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, irritability, confusion, sweating, tremors, muscle aches, and severe seizures. These symptoms arise due to the body’s adjustment to the absence of the drug and the rebound effects on the central nervous system.

While the withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening, complications can arise if the withdrawal process is improperly supervised or the individual has pre-existing health conditions. Seizures, in particular, can be a potential risk during Xanax withdrawal, and in rare cases, they can lead to serious injuries or indirectly contribute to life-threatening situations.

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What Are the Most Common Causes of Death From Xanax Overdose?

The most common causes of death from a Xanax (alprazolam) overdose are typically related to the respiratory depressant effects of the drug. When taken excessively, Xanax can significantly suppress the central nervous system, leading to severe respiratory depression, decreased oxygen levels, and potentially fatal outcomes.

Some of the common causes of death associated with Xanax overdose include:

  • Respiratory Failure – Xanax can slow down or completely suppress breathing, leading to inadequate oxygen intake and respiratory failure. This can result in oxygen deprivation to vital organs and ultimately lead to death.
  • Cardiac Arrest – In some cases, the extreme sedative effects of Xanax can cause cardiac arrest, where the heart stops functioning effectively. This can occur due to the drug’s impact on the electrical signals that regulate the heart’s rhythm or a lack of oxygen supply.
  • Aspiration – Xanax overdose can impair coordination and cognitive function, increasing the risk of aspiration. Aspiration occurs when stomach contents, including stomach acid or food, are inhaled into the lungs. This can lead to lung infections, pneumonia, and, in severe cases, respiratory distress or failure.

Is There a Link Between Xanax Use & Suicide?

Evidence suggests a potential link between Xanax (alprazolam) use and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in certain individuals. It’s important to note that while there is a correlation, it does not necessarily imply causation. Factors such as underlying mental health conditions and individual circumstances can contribute to these associations.

Xanax belongs to benzodiazepines prescribed for treating anxiety and panic disorders. While benzodiazepines like Xanax can effectively manage symptoms, they have been associated with certain psychiatric side effects, including increased anxiety, depression, and, in rare cases, the emergence or worsening of suicidal ideation.

It is essential for healthcare professionals to carefully evaluate and monitor individuals who are prescribed Xanax, especially those with a history of mental health conditions or a previous suicide attempt. Additionally, abruptly stopping or rapidly tapering off Xanax can sometimes lead to withdrawal symptoms, including psychological distress and potentially contributing to suicidal thoughts.

Signs of an Overdose to Look For

If you suspect someone may be experiencing an overdose, it is crucial to seek immediate medical assistance by calling emergency services or visiting the nearest emergency department.

Here are some general signs and symptoms of a potential overdose:

  • Extreme Drowsiness or Loss of Consciousness – The person may have difficulty staying awake, be unresponsive, or appear unconscious.
  • Slowed or Shallow Breathing – Breathing may be slow, irregular, or significantly reduced in rate or depth. Gasping for breath or long pauses between breaths can also be signs of respiratory distress.
  • Confusion and Disorientation – People may appear confused, disoriented, or need help understanding their surroundings or communicating coherently.
  • Slurred Speech – Speech may be slow, mumbled, or difficult to understand.
  • Poor Coordination or Unsteady Gait – The person may have difficulty walking or moving smoothly, appearing unsteady or off balance.
  • Blue or Pale Skin and Lips – Cyanosis, a bluish tint to the skin and lips, can indicate oxygen deprivation.
  • Cold or Clammy Skin – The person’s skin may feel cold, sweaty, or clammy.

What Should You Do if Someone Overdoses on Xanax?

If you suspect someone has overdosed on Xanax (alprazolam), it is important to take immediate action. Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Call Emergency Services – Call 911 (if in the United States) to request medical assistance. Inform the operator that you suspect a Xanax overdose and provide them with the necessary details and location.
  • Stay With The Person – While waiting for emergency responders to arrive, stay with the person and monitor their condition closely. Keep them awake and responsive, if possible.
  • Do Not Leave Them Alone – It is essential to ensure someone is always available to assist or perform CPR, if necessary.
  • Provide Information – If you have any information about the amount of Xanax taken, when it was taken, or if any other substances were involved, relay this information to the emergency responders. It can help them assess the situation more effectively.
  • Do Not Induce Vomiting – Unless directed by medical professionals or emergency services, do not attempt to induce vomiting. They will determine the appropriate course of action based on the individual’s condition.
  • Gather Medication Information – Gather any prescription bottles or relevant medical information about the person’s use of Xanax. This information can be helpful for medical professionals in providing appropriate treatment.

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At Guardian Recovery, we remain dedicated to providing our clients with a comprehensive program of medical detox that focuses on much more than physical stabilization. In addition to emphasizing physical recovery, we tackle mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. While prioritizing a safe and pain-free cocaine withdrawal, we offer individualgroup, and family therapy sessions, case management services, relapse prevention training, and aftercare planning.

Contact us today if you or your loved one is ready to begin an entirely new way of life and commit to long-term recovery. As soon as you call, we start developing a plan of action that begins with an initial pre-assessment. This assessment helps us determine the most appropriate level of care for each unique case. We identify potential coverage options if our medically monitored detox program is a good fit. We work closely with most major regional and national insurance providers. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation insurance benefit check.

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  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK384675/
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  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482238/
  6. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2021/018276s058lbl.pdf
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538165/
  8. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2023/021434s022lbl.pdf
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1884537/
  10. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a684001.html#overdose
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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