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Can You Overdose on Xanax – How Much is Too Much?

xanax overdose

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam. It’s a prescription benzodiazepine that’s frequently prescribed for the treatment of panic disorder and other forms of anxiety. Benzodiazepines or “benzos” are a class of drugs that are recognized for being fast-acting but highly addictive. Apart from elderly adults with progressive, age-related illnesses and others receiving end-of-life treatments, Xanax and other benzos like it are often only prescribed for short-term use. Not only is this medication habit-forming, but alprazolam has a high risk of overdose and can be fatal if too much is taken.

If you or someone you love is currently taking Xanax, it’s important to understand the following:

  • Risk factors for Xanax overdose (alprazolam overdose)
  • Medications that are contraindicated with Xanax
  • Common symptoms of a Xanax overdose
  • The factors that determine a fatal Xanax dosage.

Can You Overdose on Xanax?

Overdosing on Xanax is both possible and unfortunately common. This is due in large part to the addictive nature of this drug and the way in which it interacts with other medications and alcohol. Many people with underlying mental health disorders such as:

are prescribed Xanax to control their symptoms. However, when Xanax is used in a long-term capacity, gradual increases in tolerance can cause people to take more Xanax than they’ve been prescribed. People with increased tolerance to Xanax may even begin pairing this drug with other substances to heighten its effects. Taking Xanax when it hasn’t been prescribed, taking more of this drug than is recommended, and using it with other substances such as alcohol are all things that greatly increase the risk of a Xanax overdose.

Given that aging adults don’t process Xanax as rapidly or efficiently as younger people do, seniors are at an elevated risk of overdose. Seniors using Xanax to treat Parkinson’s-related anxiety often become physically and psychologically dependent upon this drug.

Fortunately, when the risk of overdosing on Xanax are high and when substance use disorder is imminent, there are alternative anxiety medications that can be used in lieu of Xanax. Moreover, these medications provide similar benefits and do not present the same dangers. 

Xanax Overdose – How Much Xanax is Too Much?

In terms of an overdose on Xanax, determining how much Xanax is too much is a complex matter that depends on several factors, including an individual’s medical history, tolerance, and overall health. Healthcare providers typically prescribe specific dosages based on a patient’s needs and carefully monitor their progress. Deviating from the prescribed dosage can increase the risk of adverse effects, including excessive sedation, dizziness, impaired coordination, and memory problems.

See also  Signs of Benzo Abuse

When you realize that the typical Xanax dose ranges between just 0.25 and 0.5 milligrams per day, you quickly see why it is easy to potentially take too much Xanax and overdose on Xanax. Xanax typically comes in 0.25 and 0.5 milligram pills, but in some cases doctors will prescribe up to 1 milligram or 2 milligram pills. 

The morale of the story is, don’t take more than your prescribed amount of Xanax! If a loved one is taking Xanax, you’re also going to want to make sure they aren’t taking more than their prescribed dosage. You do not want a loved one to find out how many Xanax is dangerous through experiencing it on their own.

How Much is A Lethal Dose of Xanax

The lethal dose of Xanax can vary significantly from person to person, depending on various factors that must be carefully considered by healthcare professionals. Understanding these factors is crucial to ensuring the safe use of Xanax.

Individual Tolerance: One of the most critical factors influencing the lethal dose of Xanax is an individual’s tolerance level. Some individuals may develop a higher tolerance to the medication over time due to prolonged use, making them less susceptible to overdose. Conversely, those who have not developed a tolerance may be at greater risk even with lower doses.

Other Medications or Substances Being Used: The concurrent use of other medications or substances can significantly impact Xanax’s effects and toxicity. Combining Xanax with substances like alcohol, opioids, or other central nervous system depressants can amplify its sedative effects, potentially leading to overdose.

Body Weight and Age: Body weight and age are essential considerations when determining Xanax dosage and its potential lethal effects. Individuals with a lower body weight may be more sensitive to Xanax, making them vulnerable to overdose, whereas age can affect metabolism and medication processing, influencing the risk of toxicity.

See also  Recognizing Signs of Benzo Addiction

Pre-existing Medical Conditions: Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, especially those affecting the liver or kidneys, may be at a higher risk of Xanax overdose. Impaired organ function can lead to slower metabolism and clearance of the drug from the body, increasing the potential for harmful accumulation.

Heart Health: The health of an individual’s cardiovascular system can also play a role in Xanax toxicity. Individuals with heart conditions may experience exacerbated effects on heart rate and blood pressure when taking Xanax, which could be life-threatening at high doses.

The Health of the Individual’s Filter Organs: The liver and kidneys act as essential filter organs responsible for metabolizing and eliminating drugs from the body. Any impairment in the function of these organs can significantly affect how the body processes Xanax, potentially leading to an increased risk of overdose.

While the typical prescribed Xanax dose ranges from 0.25 to 0.5 milligrams per day, healthcare providers meticulously assess each patient’s unique circumstances to determine an appropriate and safe dosage. It is crucial for individuals taking Xanax to follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations precisely and to promptly report any concerns about medication effectiveness or potential side effects. Understanding the factors that influence Xanax’s lethal dose underscores the importance of responsible medication use and medical supervision.

Signs of an Overdose on Xanax

Given the drug’s impact on a person’s brain chemistry, regular Xanax use is virtually guaranteed to cause a variety of side effects. Many people who use Xanax for an extended period of time will eventually experience dizziness, drowsiness, blurry vision, mild headaches, and difficulty sleeping. These issues should not be confused with the mild symptoms of overdose such as:

  • Confusion and disorientation 
  • Decreases in coordination
  • Uncontrolled movements
  • Tremors
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Diminished reflexes

Identifying and addressing mild symptoms of a Xanax overdose early on is important. When people use Xanax regularly, this drug cannot be safely stopped without a managed tapering plan. Sudden cessation of Xanax can be just as dangerous as a Xanax overdose. Getting medical help is essential for effectively managing mild overdose symptoms without causing other problems.

The symptoms of a severe Xanax overdose include:

  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties

and coma. Whether moderate or severe, whenever a Xanax overdose is suspected, medical assistance should be received right away. 

See also  Understanding Xanax As A Central Nervous System Depressant

Risks of Mixing Other Drugs With Xanax

Taking too much Xanax is one way to cause an alprazolam overdose. However, the dangers of Xanax overdose are especially high when this drug is paired with alcohol, opioids, and other substances that affect the same neuropathway. Alprazolam incites the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the “feel good” neurotransmitter that’s responsible for the feelings of relaxation and euphoria that both alcohol consumption and Xanax use incite. Alprazolam also inhibits the P450 3A cytochrome which controls the body’s ability to metabolize or break Xanax down. Taking any other drugs that affect this same cytochrome can additionally cause a person to overdose. Among some of the substances that affect the P450 3A cytochrome are:

  • Certain anti-fungal medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Sedatives
  • Certain OCD medications
  • Certain heartburn medications

To reduce the risk of taking a lethal dose of Xanax, patients should always keep their doctors and pharmacists well-informed concerning any over-the-counter medications, natural supplements, prescription medications, and vitamins that they’re taking. This is the only way for prescribing doctors and pharmacists to know whether or not Xanax is contraindicated.

Treating a Potential Overdose

Whether mild or severe, any suspected Xanax overdose should be reported to medical professionals immediately. You can contact Poison Control to get guidance on mitigating overdose symptoms while waiting for emergency first responders to arrive. It’s always best to keep an overdosing person awake and alert until help arrives. Depending upon the severity of overdose symptoms, you can drive an overdosing person to the emergency room on your own or call an ambulance. Emergency first responders will often administer activated charcoal on the way to the hospital to absorb as much of the drug as possible before it enters the bloodstream.  Other mitigation strategies will be employed upon reaching the emergency room. Benzodiazepine antagonists can be used to reverse the effects of a potentially lethal dose of Xanax. Intravenous fluids and other intervention strategies can also be used to address dehydration, nutrient loss, and side effects.  If you or someone you love has been misusing Xanax, we can help. Get in touch with us today to learn more about substance use disorder and the different options for treating it.