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What Happens When Xanax and Cannabis Mix?

The effects of mixing Xanax and cannabis aren’t well-documented, but in low doses, this combo usually isn’t harmful.

That said, everyone reacts differently, and the effects of substances become increasingly unpredictable when you mix them.

If you’ve already mixed the two, don’t panic. Unless you’ve taken a lot of Xanax, it’s not usually a life threatening combo. It can, however, cause some unpleasant side effects.

Healthline does not endorse the misuse of prescription medication. However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur from misuse.

There hasn’t been a lot of research on Xanax and weed together, so not much is known about how they interact.

We do know, however, that both are central nervous system depressants, which means they slow the messages between your brain and body.

When used individually in low doses, Xanax and weed can lower anxiety and make you feel relaxed and euphoric. In higher doses, they can worsen anxiety and cause paranoia, sedation, rapid heart rate, and irritability.

Keep in mind that what’s considered a low dose for one person might be a high dose for another, depending on their tolerance.

Combining the two may reduce the effects of each drug and make it easier to overdose on Xanax.

Possible side effects of mixing the two include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • trouble concentrating
  • slurred speech
  • confusion
  • slowed motor coordination
  • impaired judgement

If you’re going to mix Xanax and cannabis, you’ll want to avoid alcohol altogether.

Booze and benzodiazepines, like Xanax, enhance each other’s effects, including the less-than-desirable ones such as severe drowsiness and sedation. There’s also a higher risk of serious effects, mainly respiratory depression.

Experts still don’t know exactly how it happens, though one animal study showed that ethanol, the main ingredient in alcoholic drinks, appears to increase the maximum concentration of alprazolam (Xanax) in the bloodstream.

Various studies have also shown that alcohol can intensify the effects of cannabis and increase your chances of greening out or overdoing it.

Xanax is known to interact with several other drugs, including some over-the-counter (OTC) meds.

These include certain:

When you take Xanax with these drugs, they interfere with the elimination of Xanax from your body. This may cause a toxic buildup of Xanax in your system.

Avoid using Xanax with any other sedatives.

If you’re using cannabis and Xanax to manage anxiety symptoms, keep in mind that this combo can sometimes backfire.

While there’s evidence that cannabis may decrease anxiety in low doses in some people, high-THC strains can actually increase anxiety.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, your best bet is to reach out to a healthcare provider who can recommend proven anxiety treatments.

It’s best to avoid mixing Xanax with any substance that can cause drowsiness, including cannabis.

Your chances of using too much of both are higher when you mix, which could lead to a bad reaction or Xanax overdose.

If you’re going to mix them or already have, there are some things you can do to make things a bit safer:

  • Stick to the lowest dose of each. Your risk of serious effects increases significantly with higher doses. Keep your Xanax dose low and stick to low-THC weed strains to reduce your risk of side effects or overdose.
  • Don’t lie down. Benzos, especially when mixed with other depressants, have a severe sedating effect and can also cause nausea and vomiting. Try to remain seated when taking this combo to lower your risk of choking if you do happen to throw up.
  • Choose a safe setting. This combo can make it hard for you to move around or stay awake, potentially leaving you vulnerable.
  • Don’t do it alone. Have someone with you in case negative effects occur. It should be someone you trust who knows how to spot the signs of trouble and get you help if needed.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after can help prevent dry mouth and dehydration. It can also help prevent some symptoms of a cannabis hangover.
  • Don’t do it often. Xanax and cannabis both have dependency and addiction potential, especially when used often. Both can also cause withdrawal. Limit your use of both to reduce your risk.
  • Don’t throw any other substances into the mix. The more substances you combine, the more unpredictable the effects. Most fatal overdoses result from mixing drugs with other substances, including alcohol.

Call 911 right away if you or someone else experiences any of these symptoms after mixing Xanax and weed:

  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • irregular heart rate
  • aggression
  • shortness of breath
  • slowed breathing
  • vomiting
  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness

If you’re caring for someone else, have them lay on their side while you wait for help to arrive. This position will help keep their airway open in case they vomit.

Xanax shouldn’t be mixed with other substances, especially other central nervous system depressants, because of the risk of blacking out and dangerously slowed breathing.

In small doses, Xanax and cannabis don’t make for a life threatening combo, but things can quickly take a turn.

Both also have a high risk of misuse and could lead to dependence or addiction.

If you’re worried about your substance use, here are some options for getting confidential help:

  • Talk to your primary healthcare provider. Be honest about your drug use. Patient confidentiality laws prevent them from reporting this information to law enforcement.
  • Call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), or use their online treatment locater.
  • Find a support group through the Support Group Project.

What happens when you mix Xanax and weed? Here's everything you need to know, including whether it's safe to add alcohol into the mix.

Your Favorite Relaxation Habit Might Be Secretly Screwing With Your Meds

Yep, even OTC cold meds.

Considering that Martha Stewart now co-hosts a stoner-friendly TV show with Snoop Dogg (thank you, Potluck Dinner Party), it’s pretty safe to say that smoking weed is no longer a habit you need to hide from your mom. (Or your doctor, for that matter.)

But as medical marijuana (and, let’s be real, casual marijuana) use continues to rise, have you ever considered the fact that your weed pen might actually be screwing with some of the other medications you take? Yep, kind of scary.

“There are literally hundreds of of chemicals in the cannabis plant, including the psychoactive chemicals that give us a traditional marijuana high and chemicals that just happen to be in the plant,” says Timothy Brennan, M.D., director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospitals. “All of those, of course, are free to interact with prescription, over-the-counter, or any other medications one might be using.”

In fact, some of the compounds in cannabis can trigger certain enzymes that impact the way your body processes medications, Brennan explains. (This isn’t limited to cannabis; if you’ve ever seen a note to avoid grapefruit on your pill bottles, that’s because grapefruit can have the same effect.)

Related: 5 Women Who Use Pot In Their Everyday Lives Share How They Do It

“The problem is that cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I drug through the Drug Enforcement Agency,” he says, which effectively means that researchers aren’t supposed to study it. “That makes it’s very challenging for physicians and medical scientists to do any research on cannabis.”

So, where does that leave you? If you’re going to use marijuana (prescribed or otherwise) while you’re taking other drugs, “being truthful and open with your physician about your medication use is the most important thing, because you could be setting yourself up for potential marijuana drug interactions,” says Brennan. “It could at least plant the seed in a doctor’s mind that if you are suffering from certain side effects related to your other drugs the doctor can investigate if cannabis might be causing that.”

That said, there are a few types of drugs to watch out for if you’re planning on smoking pot.

Antidepressant Medications, or SSRIs and SNRIs

“The key point here is that cannabis is fundamentally a psychoactive compound,” says Brennan. “People use it because it exerts its action on the brain, on the central nervous system receptors.” But antidepressant medications—the most common of which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Zoloft (or sertraline) or Celexa (or ditalopram), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), like Cymbalta (or duloxetine)—also exert psychoactive effects on some of the same receptors.

“The challenge for people who have mood disorder or depression is that every time they’re using cannabis, they’re taking another psychoactive drug,” says Brennan. “And that can make it very challenging for a patient or physician to figure out what drug is actually having an effect on what.” Plus, he adds, the cannabis could actually negate the positive effects of prescription medication.

This is what it’s like to suffer from depression:

Anti-Anxiety Medications, or Benzodiazepines

Anti-anxiety medications like Ativan (Lorazepam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), or Xanax (Alprazolam) are all part of a class of medications called benzodiazepines, says Brennan. “Again, you have two psychoactive compounds interacting with each other in the brain,” he says. “If somebody’s really struggling with anxiety, I’d like to know what products are going in their brain so I can better understand how I’m medicating them. But if they’re smoking cannabis at the same time as using Ativan or Klonopin, it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on.”

A lot of people will smoke marijuana and say, “This is the only thing that helps my anxiety!” Other people will say they’re never more paranoid than when they smoke pot. That’s true for prescription drugs, too—people have different reactions to different products. “The challenge with cannabis is there’s no scientific data out there to say it tested against Ativan or Klonopin—the data doesn’t exist,” says Brennan.

Related: ‘How I Told My Partner That I’m HIV-Positive’

Sleeping Pills

You’re already aware that mixing alcohol with sleeping pills is a bad idea. Same goes for pot. “This depends on how much cannabis someone is using and what effect cannabis has on them, but mixing any product that with the opportunity to sedate someone or alter their consciousness is potentially dangerous,” says Brennan. “When you combine cannabis with a sedative hypnotic like Zolpidem or Ambien, I think people could perhaps find themselves in a very usual psychological state.”

If you’ve been prescribed sleeping medication, whether you use it regularly or just to get through those tough red-eye flights, you’re better off sticking to just the prescription medication for the duration of the dose, versus mixing it with cannabis or any other drugs.

Related: 5 Signs Your Exhaustion Is A Symptom Of A Much Bigger Problem

Allergy and Cold Meds

You might think that allergy and cold medicines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Mucinex (guaifenesin) are NBD because you can grab them straight off the drugstore shelves—but if you take them with marijuana, they could have unanticipated effects.

“Benadryl, or allergy and cold meds, are sedative products,” says Brennan. “Some people can take them and go about their day, others take one dose and they’re on the couch for the rest of the day. I think it’s really important for people to remember that cannabis is not a harmless product, and we don’t know how it might interact with even over-the-counter drugs.”

So if you’re sick, stick to just one drug (the cold meds, please) if you want it to work its magic as fast as possible.

Smoking pot can mess with cold medicines, anti-depressants, and more. Experts share potential marijuana drug interactions and how to avoid them.