Percocet and Xanax are among the most popular and widely prescribed medications in America today.
Xanax is used to treat anxiety disorders, which represent the most common mental health issues in the United States. Percocet is a prescription that contains the opioid oxycodone, which is used to treat moderate to severe pain symptoms.
Their effectiveness in treating pain and anxiety has led to frequent prescription and use. However, although they are effective for people who need them, these drugs may also be used to achieve a recreational high. In some cases, people may mix these two substances together for various reasons. However, mixing them together can be dangerous.
Because of the powerfully depressant effects of each drug, there is no safe way to mix Xanax and Percocet.
What is Xanax?
Xanax is the brand name for the generic drug alprazolam, which is a benzodiazepine.
Benzodiazepines are class of nervous system depressants that work by increasing the production of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. The neurotransmitter is released to regulate electrical activity in the brain and central nervous system.
During periods of stress, the brain releases GABA to help people moderate their feelings, moods, and behavior. However, the brain is sometimes incapable of producing enough GABA to do this, leaving people in elevated states of anxiety for long periods of time. They might also have problems falling asleep, regulating their anger, and concentrating. Xanax, one of the most popular benzodiazepines and prescription drugs in general, is particularly effective at influencing GABA to promote sleep, relaxation, and anti-anxiety.
One reason for Xanax being so popular is that it takes effect in just 25 minutes. This makes it effective in treating anxiety disorders that can cause symptoms to come on suddenly. For instance, panic disorders can cause severe anxiety symptoms with very little warning. A fast-acting benzodiazepine like Xanax can quickly ease symptoms.
One reason for Xanax being so popular is that it takes effect in just 25 minutes. People afraid of having a panic attack can receive staggeringly quick relief.
As The Fix explains, this double-edged sword means that many people are compelled to take more Xanax than prescribed as a way of preempting future anxiety attacks or to enjoy the blissful peace and tranquility that come from heightened GABA
What’s in Percocet?
Percocet is the brand name for an opioid, which is actually the combination of two drugs: oxycodone and acetaminophen.
Oxycodone is itself an opioid, while acetaminophen (marketed as Tylenol) is used to accentuate the painkilling properties of oxycodone.
Opioids work by attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. When the receptors are activated in this way, they block incoming signals of pain and give users a burst of pleasure and euphoria. This is an effective painkilling mechanism that has been behind the natural and medicinal use of opioids for thousands of years, especially in instances of severe, chronic, and breakthrough pain.
However, much like Xanax, this is also why prescription opioids (like Percocet) are so widely abused.
Can You Mix Percocet and Xanax Safely?
No, they cannot be safely mixed.
Both medications have a high potential for abuse when they are taken on their own. Even if misused individually, they can lead to addiction and overdose.
Taken together, however, Xanax intensifies the high from the Percocet. People looking to take Percocet for recreational purposes or who are desperate for relief from their pain might be tempted to combine the two medications to increase the effect. Users experience powerfully drowsy and relaxing sensations, which can be immediately habit-forming.
The pleasantness of these sensations comes at a high price. The overdose element arises when the respective medications depress the central nervous system to such a degree that basic functions become impaired.
Opioid abuse is strongly connected with respiratory depression and ultimately failure, which is the primary mechanism behind opioid overdoses. Taking excessive quantities of benzodiazepines like Xanax can also have the same effect.
Additionally, suppressing the operations of the central nervous system can have other damaging effects on the heart and brain. Users can struggle to concentrate, move, walk, or even see clearly.
At higher levels of substance abuse, there is a legitimate danger that not only will the respiratory system shut down, but the heart will also struggle to beat strongly enough to pump enough blood to the rest of the body and the brain, which might put the person into a coma. Death by overdose is not uncommon at this point.
Why Would Someone Mix Percocet and Xanax?
Mixing drugs is common for multiple reasons. Unfortunately, drugs may sometimes be mixed accidentally. If you’re taking multiple medications, you may accidentally mix two that shouldn’t be combined. This may happen because of poor communication between you and your doctor. Or you may not realize that mixing the two can be dangerous. In some cases, someone with a substance use disorder may take Xanax regularly to manage an anxiety or panic disorder.
Then if you sustain an injury, you may be prescribed Percocet without knowing how the two drugs interact. That’s why it’s important to let your doctor know what prescriptions you’re taking and ask questions about any new prescription you take.
Percocet and Xanax may also be mixed by someone who is aware of the warnings against mixing them because they don’t believe those warnings are serious. However, prescription drugs are significant medications, and it’s important to take them as directed.
In some cases, people mix drugs to achieve a unique or particularly potent high. Since Percocet intensifies Xanax, people may mix the drugs out of curiosity or for a more potent experience.
Why Is Mixing Percocet and Xanax Dangerous?
Percocet and Xanax are prescription drugs that contain different active ingredients. However, even though the drugs they contain are in different drug classes, they can have some similar effects on the body. Alprazolam is a benzodiazepine that works in the brain by slowing down activity in the nervous system. Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax interacts with GABA by binding to GABA receptors and increasing the effectiveness of the neurotransmitter. This enhances GABA’s natural effects, causing you to feel mentally and physically relaxed. It can also influence the subconscious functions of your brain. It may slow down your heart rate, relax muscles, or change your blood pressure.
Opioids like the oxycodone in Percocet work differently in the brain. They mimic naturally occurring chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Opioids bind to opioid receptors designed to block pain signals. However, opioids also slow down some nervous system functions.
When the two drugs are combined, they do what is called potentiation. Potentiation is when two substances combine their effects to create much more potent effects in the body. Since both substances slow down nervous system functions, it can be similar to taking a higher dose of one of the drugs. This can lead to some of the most dangerous consequences of overdose, such as respiratory depression.
Is There a Safe Amount?
There is no way (or reason) to safely mix Percocet and Xanax. There is no amount of either that is safe to combine into one concoction. Unfortunately, that does not stop people from trying.
In 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse wrote that over 30 percent of opioid-related overdoses also involved benzodiazepines. It signifies a 7 percent increase from 2015.
One of the problems is that many people are prescribed both opioids like Percocet and benzodiazepines like Xanax at the same time despite much research suggesting how dangerous that practice is.
In 2016, for instance, a study in North Carolina reported that the rate of fatal overdoses among patients receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines was 10 times higher than among patients who received only opioids.
A study of American veterans who had been prescribed opioids found that getting a benzodiazepine prescription on top of opioids “was associated with increased risk of drug overdose death.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarifies that there are “medically appropriate reasons” for patients to be given a prescription for both benzodiazepines and opioids, but the Food and Drug Administration has called for manufacturers to draw attention to the dangers of taking both medications, even as prescribed.
Even as prescribed, Percocet and Xanax are not meant to be taken simultaneously, in any amount. They are both incredibly effective medications, very adept at compelling misuse on their own, and equally capable of shutting down the body to the point of overdose, coma, and death.
Mixing them together greatly increases the chances of a fatal outcome.