Xanax and Alcohol: Two Monsters at a Time
Cynthia (not her real name), one of our new clients, suffers from a legitimate medical problem which is controlled with non-addictive pharmaceuticals. However, over the past five years, her doctors and psychiatrist have added Percoset, Ambien, Xanax, MS-Contin (morphine) and Soma to her daily regimen of pills.
Her parents report that in June and July of this year, they rushed Cynthia to the hospital because she had basically “checked out.” She had no idea who she was, where she was. They were very frightened. Both times, 12-24 hours later, Cynthia regained her senses. Doctors at the local hospital concluded that Cynthia’s mind had shut down because her kidneys were unable to filter all the medication.
Five weeks ago at the urging of her parents, Cynthia entered a two week detox program near her home on the Eastern Seaboard. Immediately upon discharge, she filled a Xanax prescription no one had remembered to cancel. Samantha, Cynthia’s closest friend from childhood, understood then that Cynthia had become a prescription pill addict and needed residential treatment. She began lobbying Cynthia to come to Malibu Beach Recovery Center. When Cynthia’s parents objected to her going to treatment so far from home, Samantha insisted Cynthia take charge of her own life. Cynthia was already almost close to buying the plane ticket when she ran out of options — her mother found the new bottle of Xanax and flushed it down the toilet.
When Cynthia called Samantha from the airport before boarding the plane she was drinking a beer. We don’t know what happened on the plane, but by the time she arrived in Los Angeles Cynthia was virtually comotose.
“Once she called me after her plane landed in LA, it took me about 2 minutes to figure out she was not in her right mind,” recalls Samantha. “She was unable to find her way from the gate to the baggage claim. At one point she was hallucinating that she had reached the baggage claim. I had to send security to bring her to me. She could walk, but was more or less a zombie. All she could say was ‘I’m all right, I’m all right.’”
The original plan was for Cynthia to spend the night at Samantha’s and check in to MBRC the following day. Instead Samantha brought her straight to MBRC. Among the medications in her purse? Four Xanax pills. Cynthia was unable to tell us how many she had already taken. Her vital signs were stable, but she was unaware that she was now in Los Angeles. The doctor ordered her to the emergency room of the UCLA psychiatric department. Sixteen hours later UCLA released her back to MBRC and she began treatment.
Moral of the story: Xanax and alcohol do not mix. Both are central nervous system depressants that slow the activity of the brain. Shannon S., one of our alumni calls it “taking two monsters at a time.”
“I had many blackouts when I combined xanax and alcohol,” she says. “Xanax hastened my memory loss; I did not have to drink as much to black out. I have no memory left of those hours and days. They simply disappeared from my life.”
Eventually Shannon was so scared she stopped drinking but increased the amount of Xanax and Vicodin she was taking daily, especially the Xanax.
She remembers: “My first Xanax-only blackout was different than my drinking blackouts. I went with my boyfriend to see the new movie ‘Transformers.’ I came home and told my mom I had seen it and did not like it. A week later I went to see ‘Transformers’ with a different friend. I liked it. When my mom said, ‘Honey you already saw that movie last week,’ I thought she was crazy. I called my boyfriend for a reality check. He was so upset he hung up on me.
“When I drank, I would wake up and remember I had had a blackout. When I took Xanax and blacked out, I could remember nothing,”
It took Shannon two more years to enter treatment, but on September 29, 2011 she will have two years “free of everything.”