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Reviewed By: Peter Manza, PhD -

What Are the Dangers of Crushing & Snorting Xanax?

General Side Effects Treatment
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Crushing and snorting Xanax or other benzodiazepines (the class of medication Xanax is in) is misuse of the medication. This kind of misuse can rapidly lead to a substance use disorder, and it comes with various negative health effects.

What Happens When You Crush & Snort Xanax?

When someone crushes and snorts Xanax and similar medications, which is never the way they’re prescribed for use, it causes the medications to act more rapidly. In one study, a 2 mg dose of alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax) took only about 2 minutes for people to report feeling notable effects when inhaled compared to an average of 49 minutes when taken orally. Effects peaked at 52 minutes for inhaled alprazolam compared to 120 minutes associated when taking the drug orally.[1]

Importantly, this study isn’t necessarily the perfect comparison point in terms of crushing Xanax because the inhalant drug used was designed to be inhaled, whereas crushing and snorting Xanax is obviously using the drug in a way that isn’t intended. However, the inhalant used in the study was alprazolam, and the way it was absorbed by the body would be similar to how it might be when snorted.

Dangers Associated With Snorting Xanax

The same study found that inhaling alprazolam increased its misuse potential, with users finding it more to their liking and producing more “good” (desirable) effects. While often a concern, the study didn’t find a significant difference in sedation and performance on cognitive tests (e.g., memory tests) when comparing inhaling the drug to taking it orally. It concluded the inhalant version of alprazolam had moderately higher misuse potential than the oral medication.[1]

Additionally, any dangers associated with benzodiazepines, specifically benzodiazepine misuse, apply to snorting Xanax.[2] Misusing alprazolam is known to cause respiratory depression, although this usually isn’t life-threatening unless alprazolam is mixed with other types of drugs, such as opioids or alcohol. 

Benzodiazepine misuse (and, to a lesser degree, prescribed use) can also cause the following effects:

  • Reduced motor skills
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased concentration abilities
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confusion
  • Memory issues
  • Impulsivity
  • Sudden, sometimes extreme, mood swings
  • Depression and, in some people, suicidal thoughts

Repeated use of benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence, meaning a person will experience withdrawal if they suddenly stop taking the drug. In some cases, a person will experience protracted withdrawal, which is an especially long withdrawal process that will generally require medical intervention and controlled drug tapering to properly resolve.

Long-term benzodiazepine misuse, including Xanax misuse, is strongly associated with drug dependence, cognitive decline, and a significant increase in the risk of dangerous falls and similar accidents.[3]

Treatment Options for Xanax Misuse

The best way to seek treatment for Xanax misuse, or most other types of drug misuse, that you struggle to stop on your own is to talk to an addiction treatment professional. They can help you focus your efforts on methods known to work best for treating substance use disorder. 

There are two approaches generally used to treat benzodiazepine use disorder. The first is structured benzodiazepine withdrawal with the aim of total abstinence. This method, which works best for low-risk patients, works to slowly wean you off benzodiazepine use and get you through withdrawal.

The other method, which works best for high-risk patients, is benzodiazepine maintenance therapy. In this treatment method, you work with a doctor to gain control over your benzodiazepine use and take it on a well-regulated schedule rather than taking it however you want or feel compelled to. 

In either case, alprazolam specifically will often be substituted for a different benzodiazepine, as alprazolam is considered to be more dangerous and at greater risk of misuse than many other long-acting benzodiazepines. These alternative medications can reduce the risk of withdrawal while still allowing a person to stop taking alprazolam.[3]

Whatever approach is used, substance use disorder is best treated with a strong therapeutic component. This is because getting through withdrawal, or avoiding it with a carefully controlled prescription, is only one component of addiction treatment. It’s important to still identify what draws you to misuse drugs and how to avoid it in the future if you want to recover from drug misuse on a long-term basis.

Reviewed By: Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role of the brain dopamine system in substance use disorders and in aging. He also studies brain function in obesity and eating disorders.
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  1. Inhaled vs. Oral Alprazolam: Subjective, Behavioral and Cognitive Effects, and Modestly Increased Abuse Potential. Psychopharmacology. September 2014. Accessed November 2022.
  2. Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives. American Family Physician. 2000. Accessed November 2022.
  3. Management of Benzodiazepine Misuse and Dependence. Australian Prescriber. October 2015. Accessed November 2022.

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