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The Dangers of Snorting Xanax: Everything You Need to Know

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Not all harmful drugs are illegal. Read on to get the facts about snorting Xanax.


Xanax is a prescription medication known for calming nerves before a flight or relieving anxiety before an important test — but for some, this drug can become recreation. Although medical professionals have deemed Xanax safe and effective to take as prescribed, abusing the drug can lead to serious side-effects. Snorting Xanax is particularly harmful, leading to intense withdrawal symptoms, destroyed nasal cavities, and a damaged respiratory system.   

If you or a loved one has struggled with Xanax, get the facts below on how this drug affects your mind and what to do if you recognize the signs of addiction: 


What is Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a medication typically prescribed to manage symptoms of anxiety or panic disorders. It enhances the effects of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical slows down the brain signals that lead to panic or anxiety. The effects of Xanax work at a rapid pace and can peak within an hour or two after consumption. However, too much alprazolam can halt these brain signals and lead to drowsiness.

Alprazolam is categorized as a benzodiazepine, a class of medication used to treat symptoms of anxiety disorders and other similar ailments. Also referred to as “benzos”, benzodiazepine drugs are some of the most-prescribed medications in the United States. At times, alprazolam has been the most widely prescribed and abused benzodiazepine in the country. All benzos affect the GABA chemicals in the brain that lead to feelings of relaxation and ease, which can lead to greater rates of dependency. Xanax is known for its fast-working properties, but such instant relief can spiral into addiction when not properly monitored.


Why Xanax is Abused

People abuse Xanax partly because it’s readily available, and partly because of its euphoric effects when abused. The calming effects of Xanax can manifest within minutes, leading to quick relief, but short duration. The drug reaches its peak one to two hours after consumption. Xanax misuse stems from these unique properties, leading to addiction for those who abuse it.

If taken for extended periods of time, Xanax users develop a tolerance and require higher doses to relieve their symptoms. In turn, they can also begin to suffer withdrawal symptoms. This leads to addictive behaviors and a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.


The Dangers of Snorting Xanax

Although effective when used correctly, Xanax can lead to extreme dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms when abused. Rather than consuming the drug orally, some users believe they can achieve quicker and more intense results through crushing and snorting Xanax pills. However, while some may experience a quicker onset, the peak timing of the drug remains the same around an hour after ingestion.

Moreover, sniffing the drug can wreak havoc inside the nostrils. Some alprazolam pills contain ingredients like corn starch, which have the potential to irritate the tissue of the nostrils. This could lead to nasal and lung infections as well as respiratory blockage. Sniffing Xanax also allows the drug to enter the user’s system more quickly than normal, leading to a faster burnout and withdrawal period. Users who snort Xanax become tolerant of the drug much faster than those who consume it orally.


Signs of Xanax Addiction

Snorting Xanax regularly is the first indication of addiction to the drug. Other symptoms include drowsiness, light-headedness, cognitive impairment, and slurred speech. Users may experience these side effects even if they take alprazolam as prescribed, but they will almost certainly experience them with misuse. Xanax abuse can lead to further withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Increased tension and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Seizures 

Known for their addictive properties, benzodiazepines can lead to abusive behavior such as hoarding pills and snorting Xanax. Dangerously, users often combine benzo use with alcohol or other drugs, such as opioids. 

As a depressant, opioids sedate the mind, but the mixture of these drugs can lead to fatal symptoms. The abuse of opioids in America has reached new levels, bordering on a crisis. In 2015, 23 percent of people who died of an opioid overdose also tested positive for benzodiazepines. The National Institute of Drug Abuse mentioned a study in North Carolina that discovered the overdose death rate among patients receiving both medications were 10 times higher than those only receiving opioids. The opioid crisis has heavily affected America in the past 20 years—leading to an increase in overdoses and spread of infectious disease. An addiction to prescription medication is still an addiction, even if it started with Xanax.

Read More: All About Xanax

Xanax Addiction and Depression

Although Xanax effectively treats anxiety and panic disorders, it’s important to note that Xanax is not typically considered a good treatment for clinical depression. Although doctors once did prescribe Xanax in this way, over time they have identified safer and more effective treatment methods. If you suffer from depression, taking Xanax without a prescription will not help you manage your symptoms. Only by seeking help from a professional, preferably one who is familiar with modern treatment methods, can you find the right path for you. 

It is also important to recognize that mental health disorders, whether you suffer from anxiety, depression or another issue, need to be treated separately from addiction. Co-occurring disorders, as these issues are called when they occur alongside drug addiction, are common — but the greatest way to combat addiction is by treating one disorder at a time. 

Read More: Co-Occurring Disorders

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How to Get Help for Xanax Addiction

While Xanax addiction may feel impossible to overcome, there is hope for recovery. As with addiction to any substance, the first step starts with seeking out professional help. From flexible outpatient programs to in-patient treatment, there are many ways to safely overcome Xanax addiction in a way that works for you, but each starts with a desire to change. 

No matter what type of treatment program you begin, make sure you choose one with individualized care. Starting your treatment with a personalized assessment allows medical professionals to analyze your specific condition in order to effectively meet your needs. 

Beyond treatment for physical addiction, it’s important to recognize recovery as an ongoing process. Many addiction centers recommend behavioral therapy or ongoing group programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous, to clients who have completed detox. An ongoing commitment to recovery through therapy and group programs can help you learn tools for coping with stress and developing healthy habits, which can reduce the chance of relapse. 


Xanax: The Bottom Line 

Although many people have taken Xanax to successfully treat short-term anxiety and panic disorders, this drug is not meant for long-term use. Taking Xanax in any way other than prescribed can lead to addiction and other harmful side-effects, from intense withdrawal symptoms to ruined nasal cavities.  

The best way to treat Xanax addiction is by seeking professional help. If you or a loved one shows signs of dependency on Xanax or any other benzodiazepine, call the number below to speak with a professional for guidance. Addiction can be difficult to manage on your own, particularly when you face a co-occurring disorder; the best way to fully recover is through personalized, nurturing care.

Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.