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Updated on October 6, 2021

Snorting Xanax: Effects & Dangers

What is Xanax?

Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine medicine used to treat anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. It is the most commonly prescribed anxiety medication in the United States.1 

Xanax works by balancing the chemicals in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), resulting in a feeling of relaxation and calm.2

Xanax is also used to treat muscular spasms and cramps caused by stress-related illnesses. 

Xanax tablets come in various colors, each with a different dose and impact on the brain. When used appropriately, Xanax is both safe and effective in mental health treatment. However, Xanax misuse can lead to physical dependence or addiction.

Snorting Xanax: Is it Dangerous?

People who misuse Xanax may crush the pill and snort it. 

Snorting Xanax is said to provide a faster high, like snorting heroin or methamphetamine, because the substance reaches the blood faster. 

While nasal administration may be beneficial for certain medications, it is not the case for Xanax. Because of the drug’s chemical composition, snorting it is unlikely to have any significant euphoric effect.

Snorting any powder is dangerous and may induce allergic reactions in the nasal passage. 

Snorting any medication intended for oral use (like Xanax) increases the risk of addiction.

Although studies show that benzodiazepines are less effective when inhaled, some users report experiencing faster and greater effects. However, snorting Xanax is dangerous. Since the effects are likely to be limited, one would be forced to snort more, increasing the risk of:

  • Nasal cavity damage
  • Irritation inside of the nose
  • Increased risk of nasal infections
  • Lung infections
  • Overdose
  • Dependence

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What Does Snorting Xanax Feel Like?

When snorted, the effects of Xanax may be felt more strongly and more quickly (30 to 45 minutes after taking the drug). 

Many people who snort Xanax report a feeling of sedation and calm after using it. 

Unlike other medications that create a “high” or euphoric sensation, Xanax users report feeling calmer, quiet, and sleepy. These emotions may cause you to fall asleep or pass out for a few hours.

The effects of Xanax may peak between 1 and 2 hours and diminish entirely after around 6 hours. Taking a larger dosage may cause the effects to last longer.

Some Xanax users have also experienced memory loss or blacking out for many hours and not remembering what occurred. 

However, frequent use reduces the drug’s impact on the body because tolerance develops after some time.

What are the Side Effects of Snorting Xanax?

The immediate effects of snorting Xanax include:

  • Feeling drowsy and lightheaded
  • Poor concentration
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth (due to decreased saliva production)
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of balance
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Fatigue

Severe effects of snorting Xanax include:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Memory issues
  • Urination problems
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Change in sex drive

What Happens to Your Body When You Snort Xanax?

The pleasant effects of Xanax on the central nervous system may lead to physical addiction. 

When snorted, Xanax works quickly on specific brain receptors to enhance GABA activities. When active, this neurotransmitter induces calmness and relaxation. 

The risk for developing a physiological dependency on Xanax rises when you build a tolerance to the drug. This is when the body feels as though it needs Xanax to function correctly. 

And when the body becomes reliant on Xanax, suddenly discontinuing (cold turkey) or lowering the dosage may result in withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Even a brief period of Xanax misuse can result in drug tolerance. This is the need to continuously increase drug dosage to achieve the intended effects. 

What Happens to Your Mind When You Snort Xanax?

Xanax produces its effects by altering certain chemicals in your brain. When taken as directed, Xanax has the potential to slow down brain activity, resulting in relaxation. 

Snorting Xanax may result in euphoria or being “high,” poor concentration, and hallucinations. Xanax misuse can also have severe and possibly dangerous effects on your brain, including decreased motor function and low blood pressure.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), chronic Xanax users are likely to experience short-term memory loss. This is considered a severe side effect that needs immediate medical attention.4

Taking Xanax in large doses or abusing it for a prolonged period of time may increase the risk of long-term effects on mood, behavior, and cognitive function. It also increases the risk of overdose and severe dependency.

Does Snorting Xanax Increase Overdose Risk?

Snorting Xanax increases the risk of overdose. This is because when snorting, you may take a larger dose than intended. 

This risk of overdose also increases as a user builds tolerance. Someone with a high tolerance is more likely to take a dangerously higher dose than someone with low tolerance due to the time it takes for the effects to kick. 

Warning signs of Xanax overdose include:

  • Confusion
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Hallucinations 
  • Seizures
  • Coma

In addition to tolerance, another lethal factor that increases the risk of overdose is polysubstance use (when a person takes more than one drug simultaneously).5 

Studies have shown that combining Xanax with alcohol can affect the ability of brain signals to reach respiratory organs such as the lungs, leading to difficulty in breathing. 

In serious cases, a person’s breathing can stop altogether, resulting in suffocation and death. The risk of death also occurs when Xanax is mixed with opioid medications or sedatives. 6

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What is the Correct Way to Take Xanax? 

Benzodiazepines like Xanax should be taken as directed by your physician and according to the medication guide that comes with it. 

You should not take a higher dose at once or take it more often or longer than prescribed.

When taking the Xanax tablet, swallow it whole with a glass of water. Breaking, chewing, crushing, and snorting the tablet is not recommended. 

If you’re taking an orally disintegrating tablet, ensure your hands are completely dry before handling it. Remove the pills from the bottle only when you are ready to consume them. 

Place the capsule on top of your tongue right away. It should rapidly melt and be swallowed with saliva.

Use a marked measuring spoon, oral syringe, or medication cup to measure the dosage if you’re using the oral liquid version of Xanax.

The potency of the drug determines the quantity of medication you take. 

The number of dosages you take each day, the interval between doses, and the length of time you take the medication are determined by the medical condition for which you are taking the drug.

Alprazolam has been linked to neonatal withdrawal and sedation and should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.3 As a general rule, any benzodiazepine should be avoided throughout the first trimester.

Xanax Addiction Potential & Symptoms

Even when taken as recommended, chronic Xanax use may lead to physical and psychological dependence. When the effects of the medication begin to wear off, users may suffer withdrawal symptoms.

Xanax withdrawal symptoms may vary from physical to psychological, and they can be mild or severe. 

If not followed by another dosage, severe dependence may make some of these symptoms intolerable. In extreme cases, symptoms can include sweating, acute anxiety, and convulsions.

Other symptoms of Xanax addiction include:

  • Taking higher doses than recommended
  • Frequent snorting
  • Withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop
  • Inability to quit even when you intend to
  • Severe cravings or urges to snort
  • Neglecting essential obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued use despite physical and mental problems
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Risky behavior such as snorting Xanax and operating machinery
  • Recurring infections of the nasal passage

People who are addicted to Xanax struggle with the above withdrawal symptoms. These, and a strong desire to continue using Xanax, may lead to a person feeling compelled to use it several times each day simply to get by. 

Dependence and addiction worsen over time and may have severe health implications if not addressed. Seeking expert assistance is the most efficient strategy to avoid the long-term consequences of Xanax.

Treatment Options for Xanax Misuse & Addiction

Many of the side effects of Xanax addiction, including short-term memory loss, are curable and may improve with time. 

Although the mental effects of Xanax addiction may be permanent, the brain is also a sophisticated organ that can recover with appropriate treatment. 

Medical detox

For many individuals seeking treatment for Xanax addiction, the initial step is to enroll in a medical detoxification program

Although Xanax withdrawal is rarely fatal on its own, it may be dangerous to go through without medical assistance. 

Medical detox treatments are often included to assist patients in a safe transition to a drug-free life.

Inpatient Treatment

Substance use therapy for Xanax addiction may be provided in a hospital or other inpatient setting. 

People in recovery are temporarily housed in a treatment center and attend daily therapy sessions. 

A residential recovery center (inpatient treatment) provides a homelike setting for extended periods of time (usually 30 to 90 days). They may also provide dietary counseling, meditation, fitness classes, and other forms of therapy.

Outpatient treatment

In certain cases, outpatient care is a step down from inpatient care. Some people with less serious addictions may choose outpatient therapy as their primary method of recovery. 

People in outpatient programs live at home rather than at a facility. They have more time to attend to personal responsibilities such as work or school.

Other successful treatments provided by inpatient programs include dual-diagnosis programs and behavioral therapy or counseling.7 

Xanax Detox & Withdrawal Timeline 

Stopping Xanax cold turkey can lead to severe side effects. This is why medically-assisted detoxification is recommended.

This process is intended to manage withdrawal symptoms while the body clears the medication until full recovery.

Withdrawal symptoms of Xanax include:

  • Irritability
  • Trembling or spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches 
  • Psychosis
  • Convulsions
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Possible death

Because Xanax has an 11-hour half-life, it takes the body 50 hours to entirely remove it from the body.8 This is relatively fast compared to other benzodiazepines. For this reason alone, withdrawal symptoms set in more quickly.

Tapering off Xanax is the recommended technique used by treatment and rehabilitation facilities throughout the country. This process involves gradually decreasing the dose of Xanax until the person isn’t using it anymore.9 

Tapering is meant to do two things for Xanax users: lessen withdrawal symptoms and re-adapt the body to how it was before taking Xanax. As one would expect, this process does not happen overnight. It requires careful preparation and organized supervision.

Since the detox process is dependent on whether the drug is still present in the body, detox may take several months. However, some people may be able to taper off more quickly when they attend addiction therapy.

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Resources

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LESS
Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines,” Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Effects of Oral Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration on Stress and Sleep in Humans: A Systematic Review,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 17 september 2020 A Review of Alprazolam Use, Misuse, and Withdrawal,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 12 March 2018 The Effect of Chronic Alprazolam Intake on Memory, Attention, and Psychomotor Performance in Healthy Human Male Volunteers,” National Institute of Health, 04 July 2016 The Polysubstance Overdose-Death Crisis,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 15 December 2020 Opioid Basics,”  Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Understanding Dual Diagnosis,” National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 04 October 2017 XANAX® alprazolam tablets, USP,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Benzodiazepine withdrawal,” National Health Service (NHS-UK)

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