What is Xanax (Alprazolam)?

In the United States, Xanax is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs. The drug is extremely effective for its intended purpose, but it can also be extremely addictive, making it one of the most abused drugs in the country. There are several ways Xanax can be abused but one of the most dangerous ways is by crushing Xanax and snorting the resulting powder.1

Xanax is a psychiatric medication in the benzodiazepine family. Benzodiazepines work in the central nervous system and brain to produce a calming effect. They do this by boosting the effect of a chemical signal in the body called gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). This signal tells the brain cells to "relax."

Is Xanax a Medically Prescribed Drug?

Xanax is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is commonly prescribed for treating anxiety. There are several types of Xanax, differing in shape, size, and dosage size.

snorting xanax

Why Is Xanax Abused?

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental conditions in the US. To treat this condition, Xanax or other benzodiazepines are prescribed by professionals. 2

In the body, Xanax helps to increase the level of dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for the feeling of reward in the brain. For example, when you eat something sweet, a small amount of dopamine is released. This may make you crave some more of the sweet snack as well. This mechanism is the reason why Xanax is abused in most cases. 3 

People may start abusing Xanax in a bid to self-medicate anxiety. Xanax abuse can also result from recreational purposes, as some people even work out on Xanax. Others abuse Xanax as a way of inducing sleep after abusing stimulants for a long period.

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What Does Snorting Xanax Do?

Xanax is available in tablets, concentrated solution (liquid), orally disintegrating tablets, and extended-release tablets for oral administration. However, crushing Xanax pills and snorting them is believed to produce faster effects than oral administration. 4

Snorting Xanax comes with many adverse effects. When one snorts Xanax, it is possible to develop a substance abuse disorder. This is because the tendency of drug misuse is partly determined by its speed of onset. 5 

Xanax Abuse Signs and Symptoms

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of Xanax abuse to know when help is needed for you or your loved one. Some or all of these symptoms of addiction will appear in anyone who abuses Xanax, whether they snort it, take it orally, or combine it with other drugs like alcohol. Alcohol, or other substances, can exacerbate some of these symptoms as well. It’s important to not mix Xanax with any other substances, as it can result in many dangerous outcomes.

Indications of Abuse

Xanax abuse symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness or excessive sleepiness 
  • Confusion or cognitive problems
  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness or loss of balance, as though drunk
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble breathing
  • Needing more refills than necessary
  • Stealing drugs from friends or family
  • “Doctor shopping” to get multiple prescriptions
  • Lying about or being in denial about a drug abuse problem
  • Making poor decisions, including driving while intoxicated
  • Other behavioral changes, often related to sleeping or eating habits

What Happens When You Crush And Snort Xanax?

Snorting Xanax can cause serious damage to your nasal cavity. Any powder that is snorted into the nose can cause airway obstruction, lung infections, severe and recurrent sinus infections, and nasal lining inflammation.

Many people snort crushed-up Xanax using rolled-up dollar bills. These dollar bills, since they are so easily transferred from place to place, usually contain a lot of disease-causing microorganisms that can potentially infect users.

In general, the effects of snorting Xanax are detrimental. These effects can become even worse when you combine Xanax with alcohol or other harmful drugs.  

Why Do People Crush Up and Snort Xanax?

Some users prefer crushing Xanax pills and inhaling them via the nose since based on the claim that they experience the effects of the drug much sooner than ingesting them.

Snorting is the preferred way for many users to abuse substances including Xanax. However, both the immediate and long-term effects might cause serious harm. 6

Can You Get High From Snorting Xanax?

Snorting Xanax can cause an intense high.  When a person snorts Xanax, the crushed pills are absorbed into the bloodstream and brain through the mucous membrane in the nasal passages to produce the high. Getting that euphoric feeling encourages people to keep using the drugs, which can lead to a substance abuse disorder.

Does Snorting Xanax Make It More Effective? 

Snorting various medicines results in a stronger and quicker effect. Xanax, however, is fat-soluble and doesn't dissolve well in water, meaning that nasal membranes have a difficult time absorbing it. Therefore, snorting Xanax is not more effective than when it’s taken orally.

Dangers of Snorting Xanax

When Xanax is snorted, it works rapidly in the brain to produce calming effects. This pleasurable effect of Xanax may lead people to abuse the drug, and even lead to a Xanax overdose which can be fatal.

There’s a misconception that snorting Xanax is the best way to get the Xanax high, compared with injecting or smoking Xanax. While the risk of getting HIV from sharing needles is reduced, snorting Xanax can cause serious health complications. Some of the dangers of snorting Xanax include:

Nasal Tissue Damage

Damage to the nasal membrane is one of the adverse effects of snorting Xanax. As the blood flow to these membranes decreases over time, they get thinner and finally might disappear entirely.

Holes in the Nasal Cavity

When the nasal membrane is damaged, the piece of cartilage that divides the nasal passageways (septum) will be exposed, which can lead to a hole appearing between the nostrils. Subsequently, the nose may collapse when the holes grow until the septum is no longer there. 

Harmful Substances In the Airway

The nasal membrane protects harmful substances from entering the airway. When the membrane is destroyed from snorting Xanax, it loses this protection.

Irritation of the Throat

Snorting Xanax can irritate the throat when the drug drips into the throat and vocal cords. This can also cause a scratchy voice.

Lung Damage

When all the protective tissues in the nasal cavity are damaged, harmful substances can get into the lungs through the nose and cause damage.


Paraphernalia like straws, dollar bills, rolls of paper, or hollow pens may be used for snorting Xanax. Sharing these items entails sharing bodily fluid, which may be contaminated with viruses like HIV or Hepatitis C.

What Happens When You Snort Xanax?

When you snort Xanax, the crushed-up drugs are absorbed through the nasal membranes into the bloodstream and brain. Some of these drugs drip into the throat and follow the oral route until it is absorbed into the bloodstream.

In the brain, Xanax mimics the GABA neurotransmitters to produce a high. Getting high on Xanax can lead to addiction. When the body becomes tolerant to regular doses, more will be required to get the snorting Xanax feeling. Without caution, this might lead to a Xanax overdose.

Side Effects of Snorting Xanax

Snorting Xanax has roughly the same short-term effects as taking the drug orally. When taken as prescribed, the longest-lasting effects of Xanax typically last two to four hours, and higher doses can last longer. One to two hours after taking it, the effects usually reach their peak. 

Some of the Xanax side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Poor concentration
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Memory impairments
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

Drugs That Are Commonly Snorted

Xanax is just one drug that is snorted. Several more drugs are taken by snorting or sniffing them. Most of these drugs produce faster effects when snorted. Some commonly snorted drugs include: 7


Heroin use is frequently injected using syringes, however, it can also be smoked or snorted. Every route of administration of any substance like heroin carries its own set of adverse effects.

Snorting heroin can cause difficulty breathing, fatal asthma attacks, chronic constipation, sinus infections, and many other health conditions.

Prescription Opioids

Snorting prescription opioids like oxycodone can cause serious side effects including seizures, cardiac arrest, or death.


Crushing amphetamine pills and snorting them is one of the most dangerous ways of taking these pills. Through this method, like most snorted drugs, the digestive tract is bypassed, and the drug is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Some of the side effects of snorting amphetamines are increased aggression, respiratory issues, increased heart rate, and seizures.


Cocaine is mostly snorted through the nose because it produces a longer-lasting high than other methods. While snorting cocaine produces a desired high, there are many dangers associated with this including erratic and violent behavior, paranoia, tremors, and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

How to Recover from a Xanax Addiction

Snorting Xanax

Xanax substance abuse disorders can cause long-term effects that are detrimental to a person’s health, including the risk of an overdose. However, quitting Xanax misuse can be difficult without professional assistance due to withdrawal symptoms such as potentially fatal seizures. Therefore, it is imperative to seek professional help to recover from Xanax addiction.

Treatment usually involves the following:

Medical Detox Programs

Detoxification involves the safe removal of Xanax from the body. The half-life of Xanax is roughly eleven hours in healthy adults, and it takes a couple of half-lives to complete the drug. 

Detox programs are structured to help reduce or eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal, which can be fatal in some cases. With combinations like Xanax and alcohol, these symptoms may be compounded making it worse to deal with. Usually, medically assisted detox is employed to mitigate these Xanax withdrawal symptoms.  

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient facilities such as hospitals are often used for Xanax addiction treatment. Individuals in recovery spend a short while residing in the treatment center where they attend daily therapy sessions. 

Outpatient Treatment

This treatment option does not require patients to stay in a residential facility like inpatient treatment does. However, some individuals with comparatively less serious addictions could choose outpatient treatment options for recovery. Patients are also required to participate in therapy sessions.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on recognizing thought patterns that fuel addiction in a bid to help patients develop new thought patterns for a healthy and addiction-free lifestyle.  

Contingency Management

Contingency management is a form of behavioral therapy in which patients receive "reinforcement," or rewards, for showing signs of successful behavioral change, such as attending support groups and passing drug tests.

Family Therapy

Family-related issues that contribute to addiction are addressed by including the patient’s family in therapy. Adolescents, in particular, benefit from family therapy since they frequently revert to harmful behaviors, such as Xanax addiction, if negative family dynamics are not addressed.

Get Treatment For Xanax Addiction at Ripple Ranch

Xanax addiction is a common problem. This means that you’re not alone. To help you become better, Ripple Ranch offers a comprehensive Xanax rehab program. This includes medical detox and counseling options, including CBT and family therapy.

We also provide inpatient treatment options for people who may need constant support from our expert staff. You can reach us here to plan a treatment option that is best suited for you.