Can You Overdose On Xanax?
How much Xanax does it take to overdose?
Xanax or alprazolam is used to treat anxiety and is categorized under the drug class of benzodiazepines. Xanax is a very popular treatment for anxiety, because, like other benzodiazepines, it's a fairly safe drug that poses low risk of overdose.
People who try to achieve overdose on Xanax alone are usually unsuccessful and in most cases, overdose is very rare. Let's see why.
First, let's see what happens when benzodiazepine overdose occurs. One major side effect of benzodiazepines is they depress or slow down signalling in the central nervous system. An overdose occurs when the central nervous system is so depressed that the signalling to the heart and breathing is slowed down to the point, where the individual either ceases breathing or their heart stops beating completely.
This is fairly uncommon when just taking benzodiazepines like Xanax because the drug is not potent enough to cause a severe central nervous system depression.
The reason it's hard to overdose on just Xanax is that of a phenomenon known as receptor saturation.
Receptor saturation is when you have more drugs and receptors and all the receptors are actively bound to the drug, No matter how much you take, the same amount of receptors will be activated. Once the interaction is complete, the same number of receptors become bound to the drugs and you reach a flatline of effectiveness. Eventually, the individuals simply fall asleep.
Keep in mind, this is only for benzodiazepines and more specifically Xanax. This does not apply to opioids or alcohol as they are far more potent drugs.
However, this doesn't mean that taking too much Xanax won't kill you. You can still die just not from overdose. You can die from Xanax toxicity. This occurs when you consume so much Xanax that it literally becomes toxic to your body.
It's similar to drinking so much water to the point that you die. It requires that you take a lot but, nonetheless, it can still happen.
It's difficult to define exactly how much of the drug is toxic due to various factors, such as weight, age, metabolism and tolerance to the drug.
For example, in 1997 the Journal of analytical toxicology published a study in which a woman committed suicide from acute Xanax toxicity. The concentration of Xanax in her blood was seven times greater than the average prescribed amount.
However, even if you don't die from toxicity, there are still many cases where people have passed out from taking too much Xanax and died. In these cases, the most common cause of death was asphyxiation, mainly from choking on vomit. This occurs far more common than you think.
Maybe you've heard stories and news reports where people have died from overdoses of benzodiazepines and possibly even Xanax. This is true. However, in these cases, the person did not overdose on benzodiazepines alone. They took a separate drug in conjunction with the benzodiazepine. Specifically, other depressant drugs, such as opioids.
But the most common is alcohol. The reason alcohol and benzodiazepines are a dangerous combination is because the alcohol increases the binding affinity of the benzodiazepine drug to its receptor binding site. Meaning the benzodiazepine drug binds longer to the receptor leading to increased in prolong central nervous system depression and thereby causing an overdose.
How Xanax Works?
In 2014 over 18% of Americans were diagnosed with some form of depression ranging from bipolar to social anxiety. The common treatment for depression is the administration of the drug called Xanax. It is a member of the drug class called benzodiazepines, which are used to treat depression because of their anti-anxiety and sedative effects.
Xanax specifically relieves depression symptoms by affecting the GABA receptor in our brain. Normally, a neurotransmitter called GABA binds moderately well to the GABA receptor. When GABA binds to the GABA receptor, it allows a small amount of chloride ions to flow through the ion channel.
However, when taking Xanax, it binds to the receptor and changes its shape, causing the gaba neurotransmitter to bind longer to the receptor. Because GABA is now bound longer, more chloride ions flow through the receptor ion channel.
This, in turn, causes inhibition of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. It causes stress relief as well as a large release of dopamine in the body, causing a relaxation and set it to feel.