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Tip 9:          Drugs

I have been prescribed Xanax and of course the directions say don’t drink.  Why not?

Jon J.,   Western Oregon University, Senior

My friend is always taking Ritalin and drinking.  He says there is nothing wrong with it.  I can’t help but think there is some danger.  Also, what about mixing beer with Valium?  My other friend likes that combination.

Steve B.,   University of Florida, Junior

Xanax and Valium are in the family of anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines.  While anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations, benzodiazepines help control unusually high levels of anxiety that can interfere with some people’s everyday life.  Mixing alcohol with any other drugs including prescription medications has potential dangers, the seriousness of which depends upon the type of drug, the dosage and the amount of alcohol consumed.  


Jon and Steve, when drugs are ingested, it is the job of the liver to metabolize them.  When combining alcohol with other drugs such as the prescribed medications indicated in your questions, normal metabolization is disrupted.  This disruption can be dangerous.  Additionally Jon, sometimes there is a synergistic effect between alcohol and other drugs (in particular depressants and benzodiazepines) resulting in a significantly higher level of impairment than what might have been expected.


As you may know Steve, Ritalin is a stimulant that causes Central Nervous System activity similar to cocaine and amphetamine. And, alcohol is a depressant. Most information about combining a stimulant with a depressant is anecdotal.  The results of the most current research however seems to indicate that not only is mixing alcohol with a depressant dangerous but mixing it with a stimulant can be just as dangerous.  Increased levels of impairment as well as increased blood pressure and other circulatory system problems are just some of the concerns recently discovered.


Follow the directions on all prescription medications.  When indicated, do not mix them with alcohol. 

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