What Are the Dangers of Combining Methadone and Xanax?

Methadone and Xanax both have legitimate medical uses. However, they can be dangerous when taken alone and especially when taken together.

Methadone is often used in the treatment of opioid addiction while Xanax is a benzodiazepine used primarily to treat anxiety. Taking Xanax or other benzos while using methadone is extremely dangerous. Not only can it damage your physical health but you can become addicted to one or both drugs.

Both drugs target the central nervous system and affect the way the brain functions. Knowing the side effects of Xanax and Methadone will help you to understand why the two shouldn’t be combined.

The Effects of Methadone

The Effects of MethadoneMethadone is what’s called a synthetic analgesic opioid. Its effects are like those of morphine, but they last much longer. Methadone is often used as a substitute drug for people fighting opioid addiction. It can also be used to treat pain.

Methadone attaches to the brain’s opioid receptors and blocks the high that would otherwise occur from using morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone. Even though methadone produces similar effects to these opioids, its long-acting nature allows it to be used to taper individuals off other opioids.

If a person is already dependent on opioids, they won’t experience a high from methadone if they take it as prescribed. Instead, it creates just enough of an effect to reduce cravings and keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.

Methadone stabilizes the individual enough that they can participate in other aspects of their treatment and work towards long-term sobriety.

Methadone use is highly controlled. People on this drug need to go to a clinic every day and take their doses under supervision for several months before they can use it at home. This is because the drug can be highly addictive when it isn’t taken as prescribed.

Despite its usefulness, methadone has side effects. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Itchiness
  • Blurred vision

It is important to note that methadone shouldn’t be the sole treatment a person gets for opioid addiction. It can be abused, and it should be only be taken as prescribed by a doctor and in conjunction with counseling and other interventions.

The Effects of Xanax

Xanax or alprazolam is used in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Like methadone, it is a central nervous system depressant. The central nervous system regulates breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and the body’s core temperature.

Benzodiazepines reduce nerve activity by boosting the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).  Increased GABA levels result in feelings of calm and relaxation and all the functions of the central nervous system slow down.

Benzodiazepines work very quickly, and they also create a feeling of euphoria. They are relatively safe for short-term use. However, they are so powerful that individuals can quickly become dependent.

Therefore, while Xanax is helpful for many people, it can easily be abused. Since it is potent and short-acting, some people end up using more and more of it to feel the same effects. Side effects of Xanax include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pains
  • Irritability
  • Swelling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with memory
  • Poor balance or lack of coordination
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle weakness
  • Decreased sexual drive

As you can see, some of these symptoms are similar to those caused by methadone. They tend to be mild at first but as the person increases their dosage, the symptoms also increase.

If the individual continues to take more and more Xanax, they could cause long-term damage to the central nervous system.

What Happens When You Take Methadone and Xanax Together?

What Happens When You Take Methadone and Xanax TogetherCombining methadone and Xanax increases your risk of respiratory depression and overdose. Both drugs can suppress the respiratory system and taking them together makes it more likely that you will have problems breathing.

You also run the risk of becoming overly sedated since both methadone and Xanax are sedatives. Both respiratory depression and oversedation can be deadly.

The symptoms of an overdose on methadone and Xanax are the same as those you would experience if you abused either drug. However, they are more intense. They include:

  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Bluish color in nails and lips
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Constricted pupils
  • Weakness

Overdosing on benzodiazepines and opioids can be fatal without emergency medical assistance. While an opioid overdose can be reversed with naloxone, this drug won’t reduce the effects of benzodiazepines. If a person has combined methadone and Xanax, naloxone may not save their life.

Without addiction treatment, people who engage in polydrug abuse are likely to continue their behavior. Even though using methadone and Xanax can be deadly, many people with methadone prescriptions still use both.

However, you should never mix medications without talking to your doctor. Furthermore, any time you see a new physician, you need to be honest with them about every substance you take.

Why People Abuse These Drugs Together

It is estimated that between 18 and 50 percent of people who are being treated with methadone are clinically dependent on benzodiazepines. Some people don’t know dangerous it is to combine methadone and benzodiazepines.

In some cases, they may get a prescription for Xanax from their primary care physician who doesn’t know they’re on methadone. They may not think they should disclose their methadone use or they may not fear that there could be a dangerous drug interaction. 

However, many methadone abusers start using benzodiazepines like Xanax because they want their high to be more intense. The effects may come on quicker and effects may be heightened. While this may be feel good in the short term, it increases the risk of addiction.

Other people use Xanax to reduce the effects of methadone withdrawal. Methadone withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain and aches
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability

These symptoms can be highly uncomfortable and if a person goes through withdrawal without medical supervision, they may feel like they can’t cope. However, if you relapse while Xanax is still in your system, you could face serious consequences.

Treatment for Methadone Withdrawal Symptoms

Methadone should never be stopped cold turkey. Instead, doctors recommend tapering off methadone safely under the guidance of medical professionals.

While methadone can be very helpful for people trying to overcome addiction to heroin or another opioid, people can become dependent or addicted. When they stop taking the drug, they experience flu-like withdrawal symptoms that can be dangerous if not properly managed. 

Symptoms are more likely to occur in people who take methadone for a long time or who abuse it. Withdrawal is usually more intense when a person suddenly stops taking methadone instead of tapering off slowly. Since methadone stays in the body longer than other medications, withdrawal symptoms may last longer.

After an individual stops using this opioid, it can take as long as 30 hours for symptoms to begin. These symptoms peak after 72 hours and then start to subside. However, methadone withdrawal symptoms can continue for several days or even weeks. Each person will have a different experience.

Doctors may prescribe:

  • Zofran to reduce nausea and vomiting 
  • Baclofen to reduce muscle spasms and pain 
  • Suboxone to help with the transition off methadone and prevent opioid relapse
  • Naltrexone to reduce opioid cravings and promote long-term sobriety

Treatment for Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Treatment for Xanax Withdrawal SymptomsIf an individual suddenly stops taking Xanax after years, months, or sometimes even weeks of continuous use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms can also occur if you lower your dosage rapidly or simply forget to take a single dose. The risk of dependence is higher in people who take more than 4mg per day and those who combine Xanax with drugs or alcohol and/or take it in a way that’s not prescribed.

Xanax withdrawal may be characterized by:

  • Irritability and tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rebound insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks
  • Muscle stiffness, twitching, and cramps
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry retching
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Since Xanax withdrawal symptoms can be severe, it’s best to undergo medically supervised detox. Doctors will usually recommend slowly tapering off the use of Xanax to minimize cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

They may also prescribe a longer-acting benzo such as clonazepam or diazepam along with anticonvulsants and antihypertensive medications.

Get Treatment from Pathfinders Recovery Center

If you or a loved one is combining methadone and Xanax, you need to seek professional help. Instead of trying to quit or reduce your usage on your own, talk to the addiction experts at Pathfinders Recovery Center and learn about how you can be safely weaned off these drugs.

Contact us today to discuss the available treatment options and find out if our recovery centers in Arizona and Colorado are right for you.


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  • (877) 224-0761
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