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Snorting Xanax: What You Need to Know

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

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snorting xanax

Xanax is a medication that is commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorder, though it has a high potential for abuse as well. One of the more common methods of abusing Xanax is crushing it and snorting it. Snorting Xanax provides a greater “high” and a quicker onset of effects that simply swallowing it as a pill. Unfortunately, it also makes Xanax far more physically addictive and poses a greater variety of dangers.

Why Do People Crush and Snort Xanax?

Xanax is the brand name for a type of benzodiazepine known as alprazolam. Benzodiazepines are a type of drug that is often prescribed as a first-line treatment primarily for anxiety disorder, though it is sometimes for insomnia, seizures, and other conditions as well. When Xanax and other benzodiazepines are taken as prescribed, they offer relatively effective and safe treatments for mental health disorders. However, these drugs offer a number of effects that are highly sought after among recreational drug users, including euphoria, disinhibition, and sedation. They are also highly physically addictive.

What Happens When You Snort Xanax?

Xanax is particularly sought after because its effects are significantly more powerful than other benzodiazepines. Its effects also occur more rapidly than other anti-anxiety medications. Xanax’s rapid onset of effects makes it an excellent treatment for panic disorder and other mental health conditions that require immediate relief. It also makes the drug extremely appealing to recreational users. Recreational users generally experience the effects of Xanax within 20 minutes of taking it orally in pill form. However, it is also possible to speed up this process considerably. Drug users can crash Xanax pills to make them suitable for snorting. Individuals who snort Xanax can experience its effects within 2 minutes of inhaling the drug.  However, a recent study found that the peak effects of Xanax still take approximately the same length of time to occur for people who snort the drug as for people who take it orally. Nonetheless, individuals looking to get high as quickly as possible might be tempted to snort their supply of Xanax.

Anxiety Disorder and Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed and therefore widely available. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers that Xanax is one of the most widely distributed pharmaceutical medications, given how many people suffer from anxiety. In fact, anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States. Psychiatrists and medical professionals are increasingly trying to find non-addictive alternatives to prescribing Xanax and other benzodiazepines, but alprazolam remains the 21st most commonly prescribed medication in the United States.

Dangers Of Snorting Xanax

It is important to note that just because Xanax is recognized as a legitimate pharmaceutical medication does not mean it is risk-free. Many people operate under the mistaken belief that when a drug is prescribed by a physician, it is therefore safe. In fact, Xanax is highly regulated because it can lead to a number of dangerous side effects, including physical dependence. 

The only way to mitigate the risks of this powerful medication is to use it only as prescribed by a physician, and even using it as directed is not entirely risk-free. Most who are prescribed Xanax are encouraged to use it only when necessary for brief periods of time and to notify their physicians of any concerning developments.

Xanax is abused by both people holding legitimate prescriptions and individuals who obtain it illicitly. Individuals who have an anxiety disorder may be tempted to misuse or abuse their prescriptions by crushing and snorting their pills. Doing so may provide quicker relief for legitimate symptoms of anxiety, but doing so is likely to exacerbate the underlying mental illness and lead to Xanax addiction. 

Young people with Xanax prescriptions also frequently sell and distribute their medications to individuals with no medical need for them.

While the opioid epidemic continues to dominate the headlines, it is important to recognize that in recent years benzodiazepine abuse has been on the rise as well. Part of the reason for this is that people mistakenly believe that benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Ativan are safer than prescription painkillers. Benzodiazepine abuse is a significant problem for young people in particular. 

A recent study showed that while opioid abuse has declined among teens since 2004, 15% of young people have abused benzodiazepines. Emergency room visits due to Xanax abuse have almost doubled. This party drug is also often combined with other medications that pose a high risk of overdose. Individuals who crush and snort Xanax increase their risk even more significantly.

Side Effects of Snorting Xanax

Alprazolam, like other benzodiazepines, achieves its effects by interacting with the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. When benzodiazepines are taken, it reduces neuronal activity and causes people to feel drowsy, sedated, and relaxed. Xanax is most frequently prescribed in pill form. Physicians have a range of dosage options to choose from, including pills containing 0.25, 0.5, 1, and 2 milligrams of the active ingredient. Higher doses of Xanax offer more potent effects.

When people snort Xanax, the effects that occur are no different than the effects that occur when a person takes Xanax orally. However, they will experience the effects much more rapidly. Snorting Xanax can also make the effects seem more potent. A recreational user who has the medication in a weaker 0.25 mg formulation, for instance, might choose to crush and snort Xanax in order to achieve the stronger effect to which they’re accustomed. 

Many formulations of Xanax and other benzodiazepines also have a special coating for an extended-release effect. When people crush Xanax, they remove this extended-release coating and ensure that nothing delays their high.

Common side effects of alprazolam include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Memory problems or amnesia
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Discouragement
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Feeling empty or finding it difficult to function during daily tasks
  • Difficulty with coordination and balance
  • Decreased saliva production
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Hallucinations
  • Blacking out
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Impulsive, erratic, or violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Significant personality changes
  • Psychotic episodes

When Xanax is taken as prescribed, the effects generally begin within 20 minutes of taking the medication. Most people experience peak effects within one to two hours, and noticeable Xanax effects can last between two and four hours. Individuals who crush and snort Xanax, however, will experience these effects within 2 minutes of snorting the drug. They may also experience Xanax’s peak effects earlier. However, Xanax remains in the system for a comparable length of time.

Can You Become Addicted to Snorting Xanax?

Xanax and other benzodiazepines rapidly lead to physical dependence even when they are taken as prescribed. Individuals who crush and snort Xanax increase the risk of physical dependence significantly. Research has confirmed that drugs that offer euphoric effects more rapidly can create stronger forms of physical dependence. 

A rapid onset of effects creates a stronger association in a user’s mind between drug-taking and pleasure, whereas people who have to wait longer will form a weaker association. Because snorting Xanax leads to its pleasurable effects in under 2 minutes, it is easier for people using it in this way to develop addictions.

One reason that Xanax is so addictive is that it takes only a short period of time for a person’s body to acclimate to the effects of the drug. This phenomenon is just as common with people taking it for anxiety as it is for recreational users. 

Once a person has developed a tolerance for Xanax, they will need to take greater quantities of the drug or take it more frequently to achieve the same effects. In fact, people who fail to increase their dosage often experience no subjective effects at all. As a result, recreational users often find themselves taking greater and greater quantities of the drug. 

Once this kind of physical dependence sets in, a person may have a strong desire to lower their dosage or quit using Xanax entirely. However, doing so is difficult because of Xanax’s powerful withdrawal effects.

Xanax Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawing from a benzodiazepine like Xanax is no easy feat. Individuals who stop taking Xanax after developing a physical dependence immediately enter benzodiazepine withdrawal, a state that is not only excruciatingly painful but also potentially life-threatening. While opioid withdrawal is perhaps more infamous, it is in fact relatively quick compared to benzodiazepine withdrawal. 

Opioid withdrawal tends to last approximately two weeks, while benzodiazepine withdrawal can last many months after a person’s last dose. Opioid withdrawal is also rarely dangerous on its own, despite being excruciatingly painful. Benzodiazepine withdrawal, on the other hand, can sometimes be life-threatening.

Individuals who snort Xanax are more likely to develop a strong physical dependence, which can increase the severity of Xanax withdrawal symptoms. Common effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome include:

  • Problems sleeping and insomnia
  • Aggressive behavior and irritability
  • Anxiety disorder and panic attacks
  • Cognitive problems
  • Memory problems
  • Restlessness and mania
  • Hallucinations
  • Major depression
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts
  • Nausea and dry retching
  • Dizziness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Psychosis

People who are accustomed to taking high doses of Xanax are more susceptible to dangerous Xanax withdrawal symptoms when they stop. Severely physically dependent individuals who quit “cold turkey” can thereby put their lives in danger. Abrupt or rapid dosage reduction can result in life-threatening catatonia, convulsions, delirium tremens, and strong suicidal urges. It is therefore highly recommended that people with a physical dependence taper off of Xanax under the care and supervision of a physician.

Is My Adult Child Snorting Xanax?

Most people who have substance use disorders take great pains to hide their struggles with drugs and alcohol. Xanax addiction is no different. Young people with benzodiazepine addictions are often reluctant to discuss their drug abuse habits out of shame or fear that their drugs will be taken away. 

This fear is understandable, given how severe Xanax withdrawal can be. Nonetheless, it is important for family members to be able to recognize the danger signs of Xanax abuse so that they can get their loved ones the help they need.

Individuals with an anxiety disorder who possess a prescription for Xanax are often able to easily disguise their Xanax abuse. However, young people who abuse or misuse their prescriptions are likely to exhibit certain behaviors. People who snort Xanax tend to go through their pills faster than those who take them as prescribed. 

As such, they might run out of their prescription faster than expected. If your loved one regularly requires abrupt and unexpected prescription refills, there is a high likelihood that they are abusing their pills.

Recreational Xanax users will likely be obsessed with the drug. Their addiction will make them prioritize getting more of it and increasing their dosage. It is likely that they will discuss the drug, make references to it, and go to great pains to obtain it. Individuals who have become addicted to Xanax may lose their other interests and stop engaging in non-drug-related activities. Common signs and symptoms of Xanax addiction include:

  • Significant mood changes
  • Becoming more talkative or uninhibited
  • Seeming confused
  • Becoming easily annoyed, sudden irritability
  • Excessive tiredness or lack of enthusiasm
  • Manic moods
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Avoiding tasks that require sustained attention
  • Loss of interest in habitual hobbies and activities
  • Change in friend group (especially when new friends are known drug users)
  • Social isolation
  • Reduction in performance at school or work
  • Lack of attention to personal appearance

Common Street Names for Xanax

As a widely abused recreational drug, Xanax has had a major impact on youth culture. In fact, benzodiazepines, and Xanax in particular, have become common references in hip hop music and other popular art forms. When a person begins listening to rap music that celebrates Xanax, that can be a sign that they are abusing Xanax or at least have an interest in doing so. 

As a result of Xanax’s popularity, it has accumulated a number of alternative street names. Drug dealers often use alternative names to avoid detection from law enforcement. Consumers may use alternative names simply because they have become fashionable in drug culture. Some of the more common street names for Xanax include:

  • Z-bars
  • School bus
  • Footballs
  • Yellow boys
  • Bars
  • Bicycle parts
  • White boys
  • White girls
  • Handlebars

Xanax is the most commonly prescribed brand for alprazolam, and therefore the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, alprazolam is also commonly sold under the following brand names:

  • Alprax
  • Alprocontin
  • Alzam
  • Alzolam
  • Anzilum
  • Apo-Alpraz
  • Helex
  • Kalma
  • Mylan-Alprazolam
  • Niravam
  • Novo-Alprazol
  • Nu-Alpraz
  • Pacyl
  • Restyl
  • Tranax
  • Trika
  • Xycalm
  • Xanor
  • Zolam
  • Zopax

Other Ways of Abusing Xanax

While snorting Xanax is a popular method for achieving a high among recreational benzodiazepine users, it is not the only route of administration available. If your loved one suffers from a Xanax addiction, they may use a variety of alternative methods. Other ways of abusing Xanax include:

  • Chewing Xanax. Chewing Xanax achieves similar effects to snorting Xanax. When Xanax is broken up in the mouth, more surface area of the drug is exposed. As a result, the drug enters the bloodstream at a faster rate. Chewing Xanax thereby increases the potency and provides quicker effects. Some users also engage in a practice known as “parachuting Xanax,” during which they crush the drug as they would before snorting, place it in a holder like a napkin, and swallow the entire holder.
  • Smoking Xanax. Some people try to smoke Xanax off of aluminum foil or in a pipe. While it is possible to smoke Xanax, doing so is actually a very ineffective way of obtaining the drug’s effects. Ultimately, it is likely to lead to lung damage.
  • Shooting Xanax. Many people prefer to shoot Xanax directly into their veins. This bypasses the digestion step entirely, ensuring that Xanax gets to the brain as quickly as possible. Individuals who shoot Xanax not only increase their likelihood of developing an addiction, they also expose themselves to the risks of infected needle sites and multiple diseases.

Xanax is frequently used in conjunction with other recreational drugs. Many people snort Xanax because they believe the drug improves the effects of other drugs. People smoking marijuana or crack cocaine may snort Xanax because, as an anti-anxiety medication, it relieves the paranoia associated with these drugs. 

For many young partiers, Xanax is a second thought, serving essentially as a condiment to other drugs, like cocaine, opioids, and alcohol. However, polydrug use is significantly more dangerous than Xanax use alone. Individuals who abuse Xanax alongside other depressants, like alcohol and opioids, significantly increase their chances of overdosing. A combination of depressants can rapidly lead to respiratory depression, which can be fatal.

Recovering from Xanax Addiction

Xanax addiction can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but recovery is possible with the right support. Sober Living House Los Angeles can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals in recovery, with a focus on community, accountability, and personal growth. Our sober living program is designed to help individuals develop the skills and tools needed to maintain a sober lifestyle and build a brighter future. 

Design for Recovery, a sober living home in West Los Angeles, provides young men with a path forward toward recovery. While living in our structured sober living house, residents can safely escape from drugs and alcohol away from the stressors and triggers that drive them to use. Residents live with and support each other, developing a powerful sober support network in the process. 

As a structured sober living home, Design for Recovery is committed not only to helping people, but we aim to help residents completely rebuild their lives. Our dedicated staff work with residents on an individual basis to ensure that every aspect of their lives is repaired, from their relationships to their career goals. It is our philosophy that physical abstinence from drugs and alcohol is only the beginning. 

To stay sober long term, people deserve lives that they consider worth living. Design for Recovery offers young men the life skills they need to live lives that are happy, joyous, and free. If you or a loved one is ready to make a change, reach out today.

Read Further:

Valium Withdrawal: Causes, Signs and Symptoms

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Xanax can make you feel sleepy. This is because it is a central nervous system depressant. It works by slowing down the activity of the brain and nerves. This can make you feel drowsy and cause you to fall asleep. If you take Xanax and feel sleepy, it is important to not drive or operate heavy machinery. You should also avoid drinking alcohol while taking Xanax, as it can make the effects of the drug more potent.

No, Xanax is not like a muscle relaxer. Muscle relaxers are typically used to treat conditions like spasticity and pain, whereas Xanax is a medication primarily used for anxiety and panic disorders. That said, Xanax can sometimes be prescribed off-label for conditions like muscle spasms. If you’re curious about whether Xanax would be a good option for your particular condition, please consult with a healthcare professional.

There is no definitive answer to this question, as everyone responds to medications differently. Some people may experience a slight increase in weight while taking Xanax, while others may not notice any change. If you are concerned about potential weight gain, speak to your doctor about other options.

It is possible that Xanax may make anxiety worse for some people. This is because the medication can sometimes cause side effects like dizziness, headache, and nausea. If you experience any of these side effects, it is important to speak with your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dosage or switch you to a different medication.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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