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CBD and Xanax: Can You Take Them Together?

    Written by Livvy Ashton
  • Last Updated: December 31, 2020

Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety.

With the rising popularity of CBD, many people are now asking, “can I take CBD with Xanax?”.

The answer depends on your dose, the form of CBD you are taking, and your overall health. CBD can potentially interact with other drugs to cause serious health consequences.

Make sure you read this article before you attempt to mix Xanax and CBD.

What is Xanax?

Xanax, known by its proprietary name as alprazolam, is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It comes in immediate-release tablets, which are used for rapid calming effects. People with panic disorder are often prescribed extended-release tablets, which are slowly released into the bloodstream.

Xanax is meant to be prescribed as a short-term solution for anxiety, but many people end up taking it much longer than is recommended.

How Does Xanax Work?

Xanax tablet in their boxes

Xanax attaches to two benzodiazepine receptors in your brain and a nervous system called BNZ1 and BNZ2.

The BNZ1 receptor regulates sleep, and BZN2 influences muscle relaxation, memory, anticonvulsant activity, and coordination.

The binding activity of Xanax causes a calming effect on the body by boosting the activity of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it reduces activity in your central nervous system. This results in relaxed muscles reduced anxiety, and may also cause drowsiness.

Xanax is taken orally and metabolized in the liver by an enzyme called P4503A4.

Xanax Dosage

The recommended dosage varies depending on the person and the condition being treated. In general, the recommended dosage begins at 0.25 mg daily up to a maximum of 4 mg daily. Any daily dose of over 0.75 mg is associated with an increased risk of side effects and addiction.

Xanax and Benzodiazepine Addiction

A variety of capsules spilled on blue table top with open medicine bottle and lid

Xanax is considered one of the most addictive benzodiazepines on the market. Approximately 40% of people who use benzodiazepines daily for a period of six weeks or more will become dependent on them.

This medication has a high potential for addiction and misuse due to its unique properties. It is extremely potent and rapidly metabolized with a short half-life. This means that people are more likely to get withdrawal symptoms and crave more of the drug.

Xanax also uniquely affects dopamine function and the brain’s reward system, similar to many stimulant drugs. As a result, people are more likely to seek out the drug for that surge of feel-good chemicals. This drug-seeking behavior is common among addictive substances.

CBD & Xanax

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural health-promoting compound. Among its many benefits, it has considerable potential to treat various anxiety disorders (4). Its benefits are primarily due to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. Although CBD is considered a very safe drug, it can potentially cause problems when taken with Xanax due to its action on the P450 enzyme in the liver.

As a result, CBD and Xanax may not mix so well.

How Does CBD Interact with Xanax and Other Benzodiazepines?

CBD oil is a strong inhibitor of P450 enzymes, which are the main enzymes that break down benzodiazepines and other drugs. When you take CBD oil, it binds to these enzymes, which can interfere with the way the drugs are metabolized in your body. Simply put, CBD oil can prevent your body from effectively breaking down drugs like benzodiazepines.

The main result of this interference is an elevated level of the drugs in your system. As the amount of Xanax in your bloodstream goes up, it causes unwanted side effects like excessive drowsiness, disorientation, and an increased risk of addiction. These side effects get especially dangerous if you also add alcohol to the mix.

You should never mix alcohol with benzodiazepines and CBD.

What is a Safe CBD Dosage with Xanax?

There hasn’t been much research yet to determine what is considered a safe dose of CBD when taking it with drugs like Xanax. A 2013 clinical study using a CBD sublingual spray found that there were no interactions with liver enzymes with doses up to 40 mg (6). However, more work is needed to look at CBD in forms such as full-spectrum oil, vape, and smoked herbal flowers. All of these forms of administration are metabolized by the liver and therefore carry some risk of interactions.

You can safely use topical CBD with other drugs since topical CBD does not get in your bloodstream and will not inhibit P450 enzymes.

Taking CBD & Xanax Together

There is always a risk of increased side effects when you take CBD and Xanax together. You can reduce this risk by lowering your dosage or spacing out your dosing schedule (i.e., CBD in the morning and Xanax at night). The speed at which your body metabolizes CBD will vary depending on factors like the form of administration and dose. In general, you should wait at least three hours after taking CBD before taking a medication like Xanax.

CBD vs Xanax: Can CBD Replace Xanax?

Pills formed in the shape of a larger pill while other spilled pills surround it on white background

Due to the high risk of addiction and multiple side effects of Xanax, you may be interested in replacing your Xanax prescription with CBD. Xanax is a very potent anti-anxiety medication that comes with a lot of risks. CBD has less dramatic effects on anxiety reduction but comes with many health-promoting benefits.

Benefits of Xanax

  • Powerful calming effects
  • Works rapidly

Side-Effects and Risks of Xanax

  • Addictive
  • Neurotoxic
  • Tolerance-forming (you need a higher dose over time for the same benefits)
  • Severe withdrawal (i.e., suicidal ideation, depression, hallucinations, confusion, seizures)
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness and dizziness
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Trouble focusing
  • Diarrhea
  • Very dangerous when mixed with alcohol
  • Sleep disturbances (reduced slow-wave sleep)

Benefits of CBD

  • Non-habit forming
  • All-natural and plant-based
  • Does not diminish performance
  • Improves sleep
  • Soothes pain
  • Improves heart health (10)
  • Neuroprotective
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes overall wellness

Side-Effects and Risks of CBD

  • Dry mouth
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea

How Does CBD Help With Anxiety?

CBD capsules scattered on top of a hemp leaf on white background

CBD carries a host of anxiety-reducing benefits without interfering with your daily functioning. It helps manage issues like seizures, pain, acne, and anxiety. Additionally, it is neuroprotective, meaning CBD may help prevent age-related decline and improve brain functioning (13).

CBD works by influencing our endocannabinoid system, which helps us maintain a state of internal balance.

Ingesting CBD slows the rate at which your body absorbs an endocannabinoid known as anandamide. This compound, nicknamed “the bliss molecule,” has a calming effect on the nervous system (14).

Ongoing research has found that CBD may reduce anxiety by altering the blood flow in areas of the brain associated with fear and stress. CBD is also linked to serotonin levels by affecting how your brain responds to serotonin. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that regulates various functions, including mood.

CBD has been shown to have stress-reducing effects in various populations and across a wide range of health conditions (17).

CBD Dosage for Anxiety

The Federal Drug Administration does not regulate CBD, so you should always be diligent when selecting a source. Always buy your product from a reputable company that offers organic CBD. Look for companies that offer third-party testing to make sure that the product is accurately labeled and dosed. Start with 5–10 mg per day for anxiety reduction and increase your dose by 5 mg a day to find your sweet spot.

Can CBD Help with Xanax Addiction?

Assorted medical CBD hemp products with leaf, capsules and CBD oil isolated over white background

CBD is not only useful for anxiety; it may also help curb substance addiction.

A study done on mice displaying drug addiction showed that daily CBD reduced addictive behaviors for five months. These results are pretty exciting, but more work is needed to see how they translate to humans with addiction. Scientists believe that CBD can help people battle addiction by improving brain architecture and reducing symptoms of anxiety (19).

It remains to be seen how well CBD can help someone kick a Xanax addiction. Addiction is a complicated problem. What we do know is that CBD is a very safe alternative to Xanax and has many health benefits beyond anxiety reduction.

If you are interested in tapering off of your Xanax, you should always do so under the guidance of a medical professional.

Taking CBD & Xanax: Final Thoughts

Due to the many health benefits of CBD and the side-effects of Xanax, many people are considering switching to CBD to manage their anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you plan on making the switch so they can monitor any withdrawal symptoms.

Xanax is a popular medication, but it comes with a lot of risks. If you are considering mixing CBD and Xanax, you should avoid it due to potential drug interactions. In order to reduce unwanted side effects, try spacing out your doses so that your body has time to metabolize one drug before you consume the other.

CBD may be able to help people who struggle with addiction to Xanax, but we’ll have to wait and see what the research says.

Taking CBD and Xanax together can have health consequences. Read this article before mixing the two to avoid any unwanted side effects.

How People Are Kicking Xanax Addiction With CBD

Xanax (benzodiazepine) addiction is a major problem worldwide. Many people are starting to turn to CBD as a means of weaning themselves off benzodiazepines.

Article By
Table of Contents
  • What are Benzodiazepines?
    • How Benzodiazepines Work
    • Problems with Benzodiazepines
      • 1. Addiction
      • 2. Overdose
  • How Can CBD Help Someone Wean Off Benzodiazepines?
  • How to Wean Off Benzodiazepines with CBD
    • Tips for Using CBD for Benzodiazepine Addiction
      • 1. Seek Professional Medical Help Before Attempting the Weaning-Off Process
      • 2. Wean Off Benzodiazepines Slowly
      • 3. Perseverance is Key to Success
      • 4. Use the Right CBD Products
      • 5. Consider Vaping
      • 6. Use Multiple Forms of Treatments Together
  • What the Research Says
  • Key Takeaways: Weaning Off Benzodiazepines with CBD
  • References

Xanax is a brand-name anti-anxiety medication in the benzodiazepine class of drugs.

It is used to force the nervous system into a relaxed state — effectively stopping anxiety in its tracks.

The problem with benzodiazepines, in general, is that they’re highly addictive. After just a few weeks of use, people may become dependent on them. As soon as the effects wear off, the brain goes into a state of hyperactivation — resulting in severe anxiety attacks. This can lead to debilitating insomnia and emotional instability.

Because of the severe side-effects, many people are trying to get off benzodiazepines but find it difficult because of their highly addictive nature. When the drugs disappear from the system, users can be faced with disabling anxiety attacks.

People are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) as a way to alleviate withdrawal symptoms while they reduce their dose of benzodiazepines. The goal is to stop using them altogether.

In this article, we’ll discuss how people are using CBD as an intermediary to wean themselves safely off benzodiazepines such as Xanax. We’ll talk about the promising research being done in this area and what it means for people hooked on anxiety medications.

Let’s get started.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of synthetic anti-anxiety medications.

This class of medications is used for treating anxiety disorders (such as social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder) and insomnia.

Some of the most popular brands include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Lorazepam.

Xanax is by far the most common. Recent reports suggest Xanax is the third most prescribed medication in the United States and one of the top 20 prescription medications sold on the black market globally.

Unfortunately, all benzodiazepines are highly addictive — causing tolerance and dependency on the drug in as little as two weeks of regular use.

List of Benzodiazepines
  • Alprazolam(Xanax)
  • Clobazam(Onfi)
  • Clonazepam(Klonopin)
  • Clorazepate(Tranxene)
  • Chlordiazepoxide(Librium)
  • Diazepam(Valium)
  • Lorazepam(Ativan)
  • Oxazepam(Serax)
  • Triazolam(Halcion)

How Benzodiazepines Work

These potent pharmaceuticals work by modifying the GABA receptors in the brain to become more receptive to GABA. We use GABA to control our stress levels and brain activity. The best analogy for GABA is that it behaves like the brake pedal for the brain — slowing us down when we need to stop.

When GABA activity increases, it slows nerve transmissions in the brain — making us feel relaxed. This stops anxiety attacks in their tracks and calms us down enough to fall asleep.

Problems with Benzodiazepines

1. Addiction

Most people start taking Xanax or other benzodiazepines without expecting to become addicted. Doctors prescribe the medication in small doses for short periods to help people get through periods of severe anxiety. Benzodiazepines are also prescribed for periods of insomnia as they provide short-term relief.

The problem with this is that it only takes a few doses to cause addiction.

After just a few days, the body starts to resist the effects of the drug. It does this by changing the GABA receptors. As this change happens, users need to take higher doses of the drug to produce the same results.

At the same time, our natural GABA levels struggle as well. We can’t produce more GABA to make up for the tolerance, so, instead, we experience side-effects from the poor GABA function. The main side-effect of this is the very thing the drugs were intended to treat — anxiety.

Benzodiazepine addiction is characterized by the onset of negative side-effects as the drugs wear off. This is called withdrawal.

Withdrawal on benzodiazepines is extremely unpleasant. It includes symptoms such as:

  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disturbances
  • Muscle tremors
  • Muscle pain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Death (with severe benzodiazepine addiction)

As the side-effects of anxiety appear, it’s difficult for people to resist the medication. The drug is the only thing that will stop it. This is a nearly impossibly high obstacle to manoeuver when in the process of quitting the drug.

Therefore, most people continue taking the drug despite its negative side-effects. The anxiety is just too intense without it.

2. Overdose

Benzodiazepines themselves don’t usually cause an overdose. However, when combined with other drugs such as opiate painkillers or alcohol, the mix can be incredibly dangerous.

Michael Jackson and rapper Lil Peep both had Xanax in their systems at the times of their deaths.

Users think they can avoid these issues by merely sticking to benzodiazepines and avoiding opiates or alcohol — but it’s not this simple.

Doctors won’t continue writing prescriptions for the drug indefinitely, and if they do, they will cap the dose. As tolerance increases, users are forced to seek out other sources of the drug to feed their addiction.

However, black market benzodiazepines aren’t always made using good manufacturing processes. A lot of them contain a mix of other drugs, such as fentanyl, to cut costs for the manufacturer. This is extremely dangerous and all too common.

All it takes is one bad pill to end up like Lil Peep — who died from taking Xanax laced with fentanyl.

If Lil Peep can’t even get clean drugs, what makes you think you can?

How Can CBD Help Someone Wean Off Benzodiazepines?

So, now that we have a good understanding of how benzodiazepines work and what makes them so dangerous, we can get into how people are using CBD to support their recovery.

The basic idea is that we can use CBD to wean off benzodiazepines gradually. As the dose of your benzodiazepines is lowered, you can simultaneously increase the dose of CBD to offset some of the side-effects.

Once the benzodiazepines are fully removed from the system, the focus is to stop the CBD — which is significantly easier.

This works because CBD has similar effects on the GABA receptors to benzodiazepines — only with significantly less potency and potential for addiction.

CBD also offers other benefits for people suffering benzodiazepine withdrawals:

  1. Anti-convulsant — CBD relieves muscle tremors and tension, helping to reduce this uncomfortable side-effect while going through benzodiazepine withdrawal.
  2. Anti-anxiety — one of the most important benefits of CBD is its ability to reduce anxiety symptoms, which, of course, is the primary side-effect of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
  3. Sedative — CBD is a mild sedative, helping to relieve symptoms of insomnia resulting from Xanax, Trazodone, or Valium withdrawals.

How to Wean Off Benzodiazepines with CBD

Weaning off benzodiazepines with CBD is reasonably straightforward. You start with a low dose of CBD and your regular dose of benzodiazepines. Over time, the dose of benzodiazepines is gradually reduced, while the dose of CBD is steadily increased.

Eventually, the benzodiazepines are stopped completely. Once this stage is reached, the CBD is gradually reduced as well — which is significantly easier and much safer.

Step 1: Tell Your Doctor

Before you stop taking your medication, tell your doctor.

You need to discuss the plan with them even if they don’t approve (many doctors appear to prefer to keep their patients on the medications to avoid withdrawals).

Ultimately, however, your health is your responsibility. If you’re persistent with your doctor, they will need to help you wean off the medication. They’ll give some advice on a plan, along with some tips for getting through the worst of it.

Most doctors will also schedule visits throughout the process to monitor how the body is responding.

Step 2: Make a Dosage Plan

This step should be done with your doctor or another qualified practitioner. Some doctors and naturopaths specialize in weaning off drug addictions. If you can find one of these specialists, we highly recommend using their services to optimize success.

Here’s a simple dosage plan to give you an idea of what it might look like:
Week Xanax Dose (Daily) CBD Dose (Daily)
Week 1 6 mg 0 mg
Week 2 6 mg 5 mg
Week 3 5 mg 15 mg
Week 4 5 mg 30 mg
Week 5 4 mg 40 mg
Week 6 4 mg 50 mg
Week 7 3 mg 55 mg
Week 8 3 mg 55 mg
Week 9 2 mg 60 mg
Week 10 2 mg 60 mg
Week 11 1 mg 60 mg
Week 12 0 mg 60 mg

These dosages can vary significantly depending on your daily dose of Xanax or other benzodiazepines and how your body reacts to CBD. Some people need higher doses of CBD to be effective; others need lower doses.

The key to using CBD is to start low and build up gradually until you get the desired effects. You may need to increase the dose slightly when you lower the benzodiazepine dose.

Step 3: Order Your CBD

Before you start the weaning-off process, make sure you have enough CBD to get through the first couple of weeks. We recommend opting for a high-potency product — this can always be diluted to smaller doses, but it can be hard to hit higher doses with low-potency products.

We recommend finding a decent CBD oil and a CBD vaporizer. Oils offer long-lasting effects that can be taken both first things in the morning and in the afternoon or evening.

Vaping is good for spot treatment whenever withdrawal symptoms start and for eliminating the habit of popping pills whenever anxiety appears.

Tips for Using CBD for Benzodiazepine Addiction

1. Seek Professional Medical Help Before Attempting the Weaning-Off Process

First and foremost, whenever stopping a medication such as a benzodiazepine, you need to seek out medical advice from a qualified doctor.

Benzodiazepine withdrawals can be dangerous — even lethal, in some cases.

Consult your doctor and return for follow-up visits every time you reduce your benzodiazepine dose so the doctor can assess your vital signs periodically as well as your overall wellbeing and emotional health.

2. Wean Off Benzodiazepines Slowly

It’s better to wean off benzodiazepines slowly over a few weeks instead of as fast as possible — this is especially true for people with a history of using benzodiazepines for more than six months.

Reducing your dose too quickly increases the chances of severe panic attacks, which can lead to a relapse. Instead, plan to wean down by roughly 25% every two weeks.

A good schedule is to lower the dose by about 1 mg every second or third week.

This gives the body enough time to readjust its dependency on the new dose. Once the body has stabilized, you can move on to the next stage and start the process again.

3. Perseverance is Key to Success

Even with the help of CBD, getting off benzodiazepines can be a challenge. Although CBD can significantly improve withdrawal symptoms, it won’t eliminate them.

It’s essential to persevere through periods where withdrawal symptoms can become especially challenging. Remember that the discomfort will eventually pass for good, but only if the process is seen through to the end.

4. Use the Right CBD Products

There are a lot of CBD products on the market — many of which are not going to be sufficient enough for this application.

Look for a CBD product that has the following characteristics:

  • Full-spectrum extract
  • High potency (at least 33 mg/mL)
  • Organic Hemp
  • Independently tested to prove the absence of contaminants

Using cheap, poor-quality CBD products may be ineffective or, in some cases, make symptoms even worse. This is especially true with contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals — which can cause anxiety. This is the last thing you want when going through benzodiazepines withdrawal.

We also highly recommend opting for a full-spectrum extract. The full combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals in the cannabis plant is more beneficial than CBD in isolation [1].

5. Consider Vaping

Rarely do we recommend anyone starts vaping, especially if they’re not already a smoker.

However, in this case, vaping is very beneficial for changing habits of drug use.

The very action of vaping can help users change habits in their brain. Usually, when benzodiazepines users feel anxiety coming on between doses, they’ll reach for a pill. This forms habit pathways in the brain that can be hard to shake.

This habit of popping pills for anxiety can be replaced with a few hits from a vape instead.

Of course, you don’t want to have compulsive or addictive behavior with anything, including vaping — but during the process of weaning off benzodiazepines, this can be a game-changer.

Vaping also offers the benefits of being fast-acting — especially compared with things such as CBD oils or capsules that can take as long as 45 minutes to start producing their effects. Vaping only takes 5 to 15 minutes to produce the same results.

When anxiety attacks come on, they come on quickly, so relief also needs to be felt rapidly.

6. Use Multiple Forms of Treatments Together

As with any complex medical condition, the best treatment is a multifaceted approach rather than one form of treatment. Doctors working in rehabilitation centers treating patients for addiction have a variety of techniques at their disposal. It’s the same for people working on correcting addiction at home.

Some common techniques people use to get through benzodiazepine withdrawal may include:

  • Support groups
  • Other herbs
  • Nutritional support
  • Dietary changes
  • Removal of common triggers for drug use
  • Starting a new hobby

What the Research Says

One of the most well-researched benefits of CBD is its anti-anxiety effects.

Interestingly, much of this benefit of CBD is through its activity on the benzodiazepine receptors themselves [2, 3].

This means two things:

  1. CBD can be used to replace benzodiazepines to help wean off the drug.
  2. CBD may increase the effects of benzodiazepines — making it essential to start at a low dose and build up gradually.

A retrospective study published in 2019 analyzed a cohort of 146 medical marijuana patients who were also taking benzodiazepines at the start of the study [4]. By the end of the two-month study, 30% of these patients were no longer taking benzodiazepines. A later follow-up at the six-month mark found that 45% of the patients that took part in the study were off benzodiazepines completely.

Key Takeaways: Weaning Off Benzodiazepines with CBD

Benzodiazepines are posing a significant problem around the world. In the short term, these drugs are incredibly useful for eliminating severe anxiety and panic disorders. However, long-term use can result in addiction. Stopping the medication for any reason causes withdrawal symptoms, which can be excruciating.

CBD is a useful supplement for supporting the recovery process. It has similar effects on benzodiazepine medications, which help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. In addition, CBD extracts have other benefits that can be used to make the withdrawal process more comfortable — therefore, improving the chances of successful recovery.

Of course, whenever trying something like this, it’s essential to seek medical council first. Your doctor should be on board with your plan to stop the medication and will help you form a weaning-off plan — gradually decreasing the benzodiazepine doses while increasing the dose of CBD.

This study was retrospective, looking at the relationship between benzodiazepine use and cannabis use. The original study didn’t look at the effects of weaning off benzodiazepines with cannabis or CBD specifically. The results are likely to be much higher if the intent is to get off the benzodiazepines.

Xanax (benzodiazepine) addiction is a major problem worldwide. Many people are starting to turn to CBD as a means of weaning themselves off benzodiazepines.