snorting xanax

Snorting Xanax: Risk, Dangers, Everything You Need To Know and What No One Tells You

Snorting Xanax is extremely dangerous as it can increase the risk of addiction, overdose, nasal cavity damage, and other unwanted side effects. If you or someone you love is addicted to Xanax, please contact Carolina Center for Recovery today to learn about our substance abuse treatment options.

Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, a benzodiazepine drug that is available via prescription only. Alprazolam is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, stress disorders, and panic disorders. It is the most widely prescribed and abused benzodiazepine in the United States.[1]

Like other benzodiazepines, Xanax slows down the central nervous system (CNS), producing a calming, sedating effect on the body. Snorting Xanax is a popular method of abuse by teens and young adults because they believe insufflation (snorting) will produce stronger effects with a rapid onset.

Why Do People Snort Xanax?

Most of the time, when people start abusing prescription drugs they do so by taking a higher dose than prescribed or taking a dose more frequently than directed. Increasing your dose of a drug like Xanax will build your tolerance to the substance, meaning you’ll have to continue increasing your dose to feel the desired effects.

One way people attempt to overcome a growing tolerance is to change the method of drug administration. Instead of swallowing a pill, people may crush and sniff or snort the powder from the pill. The idea behind snorting is that the mucous membranes in the nose are very thin, so the drug can reach the bloodstream faster, and the user can feel the effects quicker and stronger than they would if they had simply swallowed it.

Although people believe snorting Xanax will produce a faster and stronger high, studies have shown that the difference in onset of effects and peak effects is insignificant when comparing insufflation vs. swallowing. This is because Xanax is fat-soluble and doesn’t dissolve well in water, so the nasal membrane has a difficult time absorbing it. There are more risks associated with Xanax insufflation than there are benefits.

The Effects of Snorting Xanax

Snorting Xanax produces nearly the same short-term effects as it does when taken orally. People tend to feel the effects within 15-20 minutes after insufflation and the effects can last for a couple of hours depending on the dose they took and their tolerance level.

Common Xanax side effects include:

  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Poor concentration
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Headaches
  • Impaired memory
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Slurred speech
  • Glossy eyes

Because insufflation can deliver higher concentrations of Xanax to the bloodstream quickly, people who snort the drug may also be at an increased risk of agitation, extreme confusion, tachycardia, and respiratory depression.

Risks and Dangers of Xanax Insufflation

Snorting Xanax can be more dangerous than taking it orally because it can damage the airway, lead to infection, increase the risk of addiction, or result in an overdose. Unfortunately, the pleasurable effects Xanax abuse produces may lead people to continue abusing the drug until they are severely addicted.

Damage to the Nose and Upper Respiratory Tract

Xanax pills contain more than just alprazolam–they also contain corn starch and other fillers that can irritate the inside of the nose if it is inhaled. This irritation can eventually lead to nasal cavity infection, lung infection, or respiratory blockage.

Other ways Xanax sufflation can harm your nose and upper respiratory system include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Smell loss
  • Thinning nasal tissue
  • Holes in the nasal cavity
  • Whistling noise coming from the nose
  • Throat irritation
  • Lung damage

Xanax Addiction

When people snort Xanax, they often inhale multiple pills or do so very frequently. This increases the risk of dependence and addiction.

Signs of Xanax addiction include:

  • Regular drowsiness, confusion, or cognitive problems
  • Memory loss
  • Frequently exhibiting a drunk-like state (slurred speech, loss of balance, poor coordination, etc)
  • Running out of the prescription early and needing more refills than usual
  • Stealing Xanax from friends or family or buying it on the street
  • “Doctor shopping,” or visiting multiple doctors trying to get more refills
  • Lying about drug abuse
  • Changes in behavior, eating, sleeping, and mood
  • Making multiple failed attempts to stop using Xanax
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Xanax
  • Spending excess time and money on Xanax
  • Isolating from loved ones

Drug Overdose

Snorting causes the body to develop tolerance rapidly, encouraging users to increase their regular dose. Using large doses of Xanax, especially when snorting it, can thereby increase the risk of overdose.

Another risk involves fake Xanax pills or “pressies.” These pills look like Xanax, but are manufactured illicitly in clandestine laboratories. Counterfeit Xanax pills may contain stronger, more lethal drugs such as fentanyl, which can substantially increase the overdose risk.

Signs of drug overdose include:[1]

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blu-ish colored lips and fingernails
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Chest pain
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Death

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.

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.

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.

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.

Find Help for Xanax Abuse and Addiction Today

In recent years, Xanax abuse has skyrocketed in the United States. 1.7% (or about 4.8 million people) reported misusing benzodiazepines like Xanax in 2020.[3] If you or someone you love may be addicted to Xanax, know that there is help available.

Carolina Center for Recovery is a state-licensed and CARF (commission on accreditation of rehabilitation facilities) accredited substance abuse treatment facility. We are a dual-diagnosis facility with a primary focus on substance abuse. We offer individualized, extended-term treatment in an intimate setting located in Charlotte, NC. Contact us today to learn how we can help you begin your recovery journey.



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