Snorting Xanax

Snorting Xanax by crushing and inhaling it through the nose is a form of misuse that can damage nasal tissue and increase your risk of infection.
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Doctors prescribe Xanax in doses dependent upon various factors, but the benzodiazepine is generally administered orally as a regular or extended-release tablet or as an orally disintegrating tablet. Snorting Xanax is dangerous and can cause a range of side effects, including overdose.

Why Do People Snort Xanax?

Xanax increases a chemical in the brain known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which reduces anxiety and produces a sense of calm and relaxation. When taken as prescribed, the alprazolam is metabolized in the body and the effects of the drug peak about 1-2 hours later.

But when someone misuses Xanax, which is highly addictive, to achieve what is known as a “Xanax high,” they need excessive doses to reach their desired state. Some Xanax users will crush the drug and snort it in an attempt to speed and heighten its effects.

Snorting Xanax, especially the 2-milligram Xanax bar, makes people more susceptible to overdose. According to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, a Xanax overdose may be more lethal than other drugs in its class. Therefore it’s important to be especially aware of signs of an overdose, which may include confusion, coordination problems, drowsiness and loss of consciousness.

Effects and Signs of Snorting Xanax

In addition to the common side effects of Xanax abuse, such as confusion, depression and memory problems, snorting Xanax presents a whole other set of long- and short-term side effects.

Unlike medications in dosage forms that are intended for intranasal administration, alprazolam pills may contain inactive ingredients, such as cornstarch, that may irritate the soft tissue of the nose.

This irritation may increase the risk of:

Recognizable symptoms of nasal insufflation (snorting or inhaling) include:

  • Frequent sniffling
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Nasal congestion
  • Recurring inflammation or infections of the nasal passage and sinuses
  • Runny nose

Combining Xanax with alcohol and other drugs can compound these issues, increasing the risk of overdose.

Does Snorting Xanax Work?

Snorting Xanax works differently from snorting heroin or cocaine, both of which are water soluble and thus can more effectively travel through the nasal passage. A study of another benzodiazepine — diazepam — on animals in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics showed no significant direct nose-to-brain transport, which means that snorting was no faster than oral administration in getting the drug to the brain.

Nevertheless, the misconception that snorting the drug results in an accelerated high persists, so snorting remains a popular method of use.

Long-Term Effects of Snorting Xanax

The damaging effects of snorting Xanax go beyond the symptoms from the use of the drug. The route of administration, nasal insufflation, can damage the nasal cavity, sinuses and respiratory tract. Dr. Richard Lebowitz, rhinologist at NYU Langone, told that inflammation, infection, and airway blockages are often attributable to the particles in the powders that contain the active ingredients in a drug — in this case, alprazolam.

Snorting Xanax can create long-term health problems and intense withdrawal symptoms. Because of its short half-life and high potency, Xanax is highly addictive no matter how it’s taken.

Symptoms of withdrawal vary, depending upon the level and length of addiction and may include, among others:

  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Hand tremors
  • Increased tension and anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Sweating
  • Seizures

Withdrawal symptoms — including seizures and psychotic reactions — can be life-threatening, so detoxing from Xanax requires professional treatment and rehab for benzodiazepine addiction. Detox is only the first step toward recovery. A treatment plan that includes a stay at an inpatient facility and appropriate counseling methods will put you on the road to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer,
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.
Kim Borwick, MA

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