Snorting Xanax – Side Effects & Dangers

October 12 , 2022

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine used primarily to treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder with or without agoraphobia (fear of situations or places where escape may be difficult). It is also used off-label to treat insomnia and alcohol withdrawal. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Xanax works by enhancing the effects of a naturally-occurring chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical slows down brain activity that leads to panic or anxiety, resulting in a feeling of relaxation and calm.

Xanax is fast-acting and can reach peak concentrations within one to two hours of consumption. The medication comes in various forms and strengths, including immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, oral disintegrating tablets, and oral solutions. When used as prescribed, Xanax is safe and effective in treating various mental health conditions. However, some people may abuse this prescription medication for recreational purposes, increasing their risk of addiction and dependence.

Why Do People Abuse Xanax?

Some people abuse Xanax as it is easily accessible, while others abuse it to enjoy its euphoric effects when taken in large doses. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 17.1% of benzodiazepine users misused them, and around 2% had a benzodiazepine addiction between 2015 and 2016.

Xanax abuse occurs when someone takes the drug more often, for too long, at a higher dose than prescribed, or without a prescription. People may also abuse Xanax in different ways, and one of the most popular methods is snorting or inhalation.

People usually crush and snort Xanax pills to experience more intense high or stronger effects. Consuming drugs in ways they aren’t meant to be taken, like snorting or even injecting, can change how quickly the side effects take effect and how much of the chemical enters the bloodstream at once. The outcome may therefore be a more potent high than if the drug were to be taken in high doses in ways they are meant to be taken.

What Happens if You Snort Xanax?

Crushing and snorting Xanax pills can cause more of it to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain than it would if it were taken through oral administration, as it is meant to be taken. As such, side effects such as sedation and drowsiness are heightened and occur more rapidly. However, the peak timing and short-term effects of snorting Xanax are the same as taking the drug orally. The duration of the effects is also more or less the same as taking the drug orally.

Side Effects of Snorting Xanax

Although snorting Xanax allows the body to feel the effects of alprazolam more quickly, it can also cause nasal complications, including:

  • Nasal passageway damage
  • Increased risk of nasal infections
  • Irritation of the nasal cavity
  • Increased risk of sinus infections
  • Loss of smell
  • Increased risk of lung infection
  • Increased risk of respiratory blockage

Xanax can cause various other side effects affecting a person’s physical and mental health. Some of the common side effects of Xanax include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of balance
  • Memory issues or memory loss
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased heart rate
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Dry mouth (due to decreased saliva production)
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Low blood pressure

Severe side effects of Xanax may include:

  • Depression
  • Allergic reaction
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Alcohol and other addictive substances can exacerbate some of the side effects of Xanax. Hence, it is important not to mix Xanax with other substances, as it can lead to dangerous effects like an overdose.

Xanax Addiction and Dependence

Prescriptions for Xanax are usually not written for more than a few weeks at a time due to the drug’s strong abuse potential. Typically, prescriptions are written for two to six weeks; however, tolerance can develop in as little as two weeks.

While any form of Xanax abuse can lead to addiction and physical dependence, snorting Xanax carries an even higher risk for addiction and dependence due to its increased speed of onset effects. Individuals snorting Xanax, even for a relatively short period, may build a tolerance to the drug and require more of it to achieve the desired effects. Long-term prescription drug abuse will eventually lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Some of the telling signs of a Xanax addiction include:

  • Taking larger amounts of the drug than intended
  • Trying unsuccessfully to cut down on the drug use
  • Spending a considerable amount of time obtaining, using, and recovering from Xanax
  • Neglecting obligations at school, work, or home
  • Continuing to use the drug despite having personal, legal, and financial problems due to it
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies
  • Having strong urges to use the drug
  • Using the drug in dangerous situations, such as when operating machinery
  • Needing increasing amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effects (tolerance)
  • Experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit the drug use

Recreational drug abuse can cause severe health complications if not addressed promptly. Seeking professional help is the best way to avoid such long-term effects of Xanax.

Xanax Withdrawal

Once an individual forms a dependence on Xanax, abruptly quitting or reducing use can trigger various unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Rebound anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Muscle spasms or joint pains
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Problems with concentration
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

Xanax withdrawal can begin within 24 hours of the last dose and last for a few days or weeks. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be life-threatening. Thus, it is crucial to taper off the drug under the supervision of an addiction specialist to avoid adverse effects.

Xanax Overdose

Snorting Xanax increases the risk of overdose, as it is possible to take larger doses than intended when snorting the prescription drug. The risk of overdose also increases when a user builds a tolerance. An individual with a higher tolerance is more likely to take a dangerously high drug dose than someone with a relatively low tolerance.

Symptoms of Xanax overdose include:

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slow reflexes
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room if you or a loved one is experiencing the above symptoms of an overdose. A benzodiazepine overdose is a medical emergency that can end fatally if not treated sooner.

Other Dangers of Snorting Xanax

Snorting Xanax can cause many issues inside the nostrils. Most pills contain cornstarch and other fillers, potentially irritating the nasal cavity when snorted. This can lead to a nasal infection, lung infection, or even a respiratory blockage. Snorting Xanax can also damage mucous membranes. As the blood flow to these membranes reduces over time, they get thinner and eventually disappear entirely.

When the nasal membranes are damaged, the cartilage that separates the nasal passages (septum) will be exposed, leading to perforation or a hole between the nostrils. Septum perforations can get bigger until the cartilage is no longer there, resulting in the collapse of the nose. People with a history of snorting cocaine or meth often display these symptoms.

Long-term abuse can damage the throat and upper respiratory system due to repeated drug snorting. This can lead to upper respiratory infections, including pneumonia and tuberculosis, and increases the risk of throat or lung cancer. Perforation of the nasal cartilage can also continue to worsen and eventually lead to the perforation of the upper palate or the roof of the mouth.

How to Recover From a Xanax Addiction?

For someone with a Xanax addiction, the consequences of not overcoming their substance abuse can be serious, including the accumulation of long-term physical and mental health problems. At the same time, attempting to quit the use of psychiatric medications like Xanax without professional help can also be dangerous due to the risks associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal, such as seizures.

Addiction treatment often begins with medical detox and then progresses to an agreed period of inpatient or outpatient treatment. Medical detox programs are designed to alleviate the discomfort and risks associated with the acute withdrawal phase. In comparison, inpatient and outpatient treatment are focused on addressing the root causes of addiction through counseling and behavioral therapies. One of the most popular therapies employed during substance abuse treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

It is important to note that recovery is an ongoing process. Many addiction treatment centers recommend ongoing support group programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), after the completion of substance abuse treatment to help patients sustain recovery through mutual support.