Alcohol & Anxiety Drugs

Written On: December 22, 2015

By: Phillip Stewart

For the most part, physicians never suggest that you drink alcohol while you are taking any kind of medication, including drugs for anxiety. However, certain anxiety medications, when combined with alcohol can actually threaten a person’s life. It is essential that you understand the risks you assume if you are taking certain drugs and drinking alcohol at the same time.


The medications that are prescribed for anxiety are depressants. This means they depress the nervous system. For the most part, they are safe when they are taken for their intended purposes, and they do not lead to many overdoses resulting in death. However, if you combine these drugs with other depressants, like alcohol, the active ingredient in the drugs are more potent. This means it reacts differently, which can lead to death.

Side Effects

Even though dying from the combination of alcohol and drugs for anxiety does not happen a lot, there are some side effects that occur quite often. For instance, people who take and consume alcohol frequently lose the ability to think clearly and become uncoordinated. If you drive while under the influence of both substances, you greatly increase your chances of getting into a car crash.

Exacerbation of Symptoms

alcoholic woman holding her head and staring at the glass of alcohol When some people who are taking medication for anxiety and drink alcohol, they often notice their anxiety symptoms get worse. This information is based on research done by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America or ADAA. On occasion, these people develop alcoholism as well. A study done in 2004 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that 20% of all people in the United States who were dealing with an anxiety disorder also had a problem with alcohol as well.

Types of Medications

People who have had problems with alcohol or other drugs in the past must be very careful when they choose a medication to alleviate their symptoms of anxiety. For instance, the drugs that fall into the benzodiazepine group can be addictive. These drugs include Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. In fact, they get more addictive if they are taken for a long period of time. People who suffer from alcoholism should not take Cymbalta since it is known to harm the liver. When combined with alcohol, severe liver damage can occur. People who suffer from alcoholism would be better served by taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are known as SSRIs. These include Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.

A Cycle of Abuse

Even though alcoholism and anxiety disorders can arise on their own, each condition has symptoms that can make the other condition worse. One common situation is that a person suffering from anxiety drinks alcohol to alleviate his or her anxiety rather than take drugs to address the issue. In cases like this, the alcohol actually makes the anxiety worse. At that point, the sufferer may drink more alcohol to alleviate the anxiety and so on.

Be On the Lookout

According to the ADAA, some anxiety disorders are more closely related to alcoholism than others. For instance, generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, social anxiety disorder or SAD, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTST, and panic disorder are all disorders that occur more often with alcohol abuse. People who suffer from SAD indicate that alcohol helps them relax enough to face social situations, which explains the high rates of alcoholism in this group. For people who have been alcoholics in the past are at a greater risk of developing panic disorder. People who have PTSD often turn to alcohol to help them forget about the trauma, but it often does not work.