What Happens When You Crush and Snort Xanax?
Xanax®, a brand name version of the benzodiazepine alprazolam, is intended to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Additionally, Xanax has been used to treat insomnia and seizures. When taken as prescribed, Xanax is a safe and effective mental health treatment medication. However, crushing and snorting Xanax can not only damage the body but may lead to a physical dependence or addiction.
Typically, alprazolam variations have similar effects on the body. Most people begin to feel the effects of Xanax pills within 20 minutes of taking it orally. When someone crushes and snorts Xanax, they are likely to experience its side effects much sooner. In one study of the difference between snorting Xanax and taking it orally, the average onset of effects dropped to within approximately 2 minutes from the time it was inhaled. Yet, the majority of study participants said the peak intensity of effects were similar between the two routes of administration. As such, most researchers consider inhaling (i.e. snorting) Xanax to be just as harmful to the body as repeatedly abusing the prescription by taking large amounts or taking more than prescribed.
I had become a walking ghost. I was sedated, constantly, and mentally removed. When I drank in addition to taking the pills, it was literally like I was roofie-ing myself; I would slip into a coma-like state. When I my Xanax high faded, my palms would start sweating, and I’d feel nauseous.
In recent years, rates of benzodiazepine abuse have sharply increased. Compared to opioids like oxycodone and heroin, many people believe Xanax is a safer alternative with similar effects. In fact, many health professionals warn that the next epidemic may not center around opioids, but be driven entirely by prescription medications Xanax, Valium® (diazepam), and Ativan® (lorazepam).
While opioid misuse among teens has declined since 2004, benzodiazepine abuse is surging. Among people between the ages of 21 and 34, 14.7% have abused benzodiazepines (also known as benzos or xannies). Additionally, emergency room visits caused by alprazolam abuse have increased 172%. In 2012, twice as many women had active Xanax prescriptions as men, putting them at greater risk of developing a physical dependence and chemical addiction.
Short- and Long-Term Side Effects of Snorting Xanax
Benzodiazepines like Xanax work by interacting with the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, reducing activity in the neurons. The resulting effects include feeling more relaxed and sleepier. Xanax doses are available in 0.25, 0.5, 1, and 2 mg formulas (the highest dosage is often referred to as “bars” due to its shape). Prolonged use of high doses is not recommended due to potential for tolerance and dependency.
The short-term effects of snorting Xanax are essentially the same as taking the pill orally. Though effects may kick in more quickly (and, initially, more potently) when crushing Xanax – and removing certain dosage’s extended-release coating – length-of-effect is more or less similar to normal abuse of the pill (e.g. swallowing the pill).
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Other side effects of Xanax abuse include:
- Difficulty remembering
- Dizziness or fainting
- Decreased saliva production
- Loss of balance
- Change in sex drive
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Blacking out
Xanax is the most-commonly prescribed psychiatric medication in the U.S. Americans received nearly 50 million alprazolam prescription in 2012.
The strongest effects from Xanax, taken normally, usually last between two to four hours (higher doses and extended-release formulas can last longer). Effects generally peak one to two hours after taking it. When crushed and snorted, Xanax’s effects may be felt more intensely in addition to setting in more rapidly. However, repeated abuse will reduce the level of effect the drug has on the body because the body has developed a tolerance.
When someone abuses Xanax for a long time, they may experience side effects like:
- Impulsive behavior
- Psychotic experiences
In a relatively short period of time, the body can become acclimated to the effects of Xanax – meaning an individual will need to take continually-increasing amounts to get the same effects. For people who have taken Xanax for a month or for those who have snorted it repeatedly, they may need to taper off the medication to prevent potentially life-threatening symptoms of benzo withdrawal.
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Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines Like Xanax
Many times, people are unaware that they’ve become physically dependent on Xanax until they try to stop taking it. Numerous people have reported symptoms like insomnia, severe anxiety, and seizures. Moreover, unlike withdrawal from opioids, which typically last about two weeks, benzo withdrawal symptoms can persist for months after your last dose if the user stops “cold turkey.” However, when done at a medical detox facility via a taper system, withdrawal generally lasts up to 1 to 2 weeks max.
Snorting Xanax repeatedly can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Aggressive behavior and irritability
- Problems sleeping and insomnia
- Worsened depression
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts
- Seizures or tremors
- Nausea and flu-like symptoms
Treating Xanax Withdrawal and Addiction
Because benzodiazepine withdrawal can be potentially fatal, medically-supervised detox followed by rehab is strongly recommended. Though the FDA has yet to approve any addiction treatment medications for Xanax withdrawal other than tapering with a longer-acting benzodiazepine, medically-trained staff are best able to provide a safe and trigger-free environment for recovery. Specifically, if emergency medical situations arise (such as onset of seizures or panic attacks), detox facilities ensure their patients receive all necessary medical care as soon as possible. As a result, Xanax detox programs give people in recovery the greatest chance of successfully completing detox and rehab by reducing painful and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.
Between 1998 and 2008, the number of people entering addiction treatment for benzo addiction nearly tripled.
Additionally, people who snort Xanax today may be inhaling more than just alprazolam. Often, drug trafficking organizations manufacture fake Xanax, combining a host of additives, including powerful and dangerous drugs like fentanyl. Consequently, many people who thought they were crushing and snorting a tablet of pure benzodiazepines only learned what was really in their counterfeit pills after they had a negative reaction.
Subsequently, overdose has caused Xanax to become one of the most commonly identified substances in emergency room visits where the individual was abusing two or more substances (including alcohol). Moreover, people who have snorted or taken fake Xanax have suffered heart attacks, heart failure, nerve damage, and fatal overdose (when one batch of fake Xanax in San Francisco contained fentanyl, leading to at least one death in a weekend).
Find a Xanax Treatment Program
Crushing and snorting Xanax is a clear sign of benzodiazepine abuse and may require treatment to wean the individual off of benzos. If you or someone you care about needs more information about Xanax addiction treatment and support, contact a dedicated treatment provider today.