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Can You Snort Xanax | Dangers and Risks of Xanax Insufflation

Xanax is the most popular drug of its class in the United States. It’s used to treat panic and anxiety disorders by helping to slow down your nervous system. This can allow you to calm down, relax, and sleep. Xanax is a depressant, and it works in a way that shares some similarities with alcohol. Like alcohol, Xanax can cause some effects and side effects that people may seek to achieve a euphoric high. 

What is Insufflation?

Insufflation is the scientific term for snorting something or introducing a substance by inhaling it up your nose. Insufflation is different from inhalation, though. Inhalants, cigarettes, and vaping all involve taking smoke, vapor, or fumes into your lungs, where they are absorbed into your bloodstream. When you snort a solid powder, some of the substance makes it into your lungs or down your throat, but the primary route to your bloodstream is through your nasal passages. 

Cocaine is the obvious drug-association when it comes to snorting, but pills can also be crushed and insufflated. However, Xanax is formulated to be swallowed, which means that the manufacturers expect it to be absorbed into your stomach and digestive tract. But what’s the difference? It’s being introduced to your body one way or the other, right? 

The different ways drugs make their way into your body are called routes of administration. Each route of administration can have a unique effect on the specific drug you introduce. For a psychoactive drug to have its effect, it has to reach your bloodstream, which is why injecting a drug intravenously is often the most efficient and potent route of administration. When you swallow a pill, some of the drug never makes it to the bloodstream as it’s broken down in digestion before the drug is absorbed and reaches your brain. 

Digesting a pill may also take longer than other routes of administration. The speed of absorption is often significant to a drug’s misuse liability. Drugs that can produce a euphoric high quickly are usually preferred over drugs that take longer to become active. If introducing the drug to the bloodstream faster decreases the amount of time you have to wait for the high, it may have a greater potential for misuse. 

In fact, one study found that an inhaled form of Xanax can produce effects much faster, which can increase the drug’s misuse potential. 

Xanax Misuse in the United States

Xanax is a popular brand for one of the most popular benzodiazepines in the United States. Alprazolam is often used to treat panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorders. However, it’s also known to have significant abuse potential. Taking the drug for too long or in very high amounts can lead to chemical dependence and addiction. One of the ways Xanax is misused is by taking it in other routes of administration than it is intended for, like insufflation. 

For that reason, it’s often a controversial option when it comes to clinical uses, though it’s still extremely common. While Xanax is one of the most commonly used psychotropic substances in the U.S., it’s also one of the most commonly misused. The drug can cause some of the same euphoric relaxing effects that alcohol can, and it works in the brain in a similar way. For that reason, prescriptions are used recreationally, but it doesn’t stop with official prescriptions. 

Xanax pills are sold illegally, and the ones you might find from an illicit source are rarely ever the same that you’d find coming out of Pfizer. Instead, dealers use their own pill presses to create counterfeit Xanax. These pills can sometimes bear marks that stand out from the real thing, like a right-angled edge when Xanax is smoothly rounded. However, fake Xanax pills can also be indistinguishable from real pills. These fake pills may contain benzodiazepines, but they can also include other substances. 

They may include a variety of substances, including inert powders like corn starch, over-the-counter drugs, and other illicit substances. One of the most dangerous drugs that are found in illicit substances is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that’s used as a pain-killer. But the drug is so powerful; it can kill an adult in doses as small as two milligrams

Snorting fake Xanax may be even more deadly. Here’s why.

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What Happens When You Snort Xanax?

Taking a Xanax pill is a fairly efficient way to introduce the drug to your body. It has 80 to 100% bioavailability when you take it orally, which means that almost all over it reaches your bloodstream when you swallow the pill. Snorting a crushed pill isn’t likely to improve on that. In fact, crushing it may cause you to lose some of the dose as powder is kicked up into the air and residue is left behind. However, some users believe that Xanax might produce faster effects when the drug is snorted. But there is no evidence to suggest that the drug works faster when it’s insufflated. 

Since the drug isn’t delivered faster or with greater efficiency when it’s snorted, there’s no real reason to pursue this route of administration. In fact, snorting Xanax can do damage to your nasal passages and throat when it’s snorted. At best, this will be irritating, leading to discomfort, redness, or inflammation. In more severe cases, it could lead to infections in the nose, throat, or lungs. Infections can lead to lasting problems like blocked nasal passages, nose bleeds, impaired sense of smell, runny nose, trouble swallowing, and other issues.

Why Do People Snort Xanax?

Though it seems like it comes with more disadvantages than benefits, snorting Xanax is likely to come from assumptions about snorting drugs in general. Other drugs, like cocaine, are significantly different when they’re snorted than when they’re swallowed. Only about 30% of cocaine makes it to your bloodstream when you swallow it. Plus, it takes longer to take effect. Snorting it offers an intense high within minutes. The idea that cocaine is much more effective when it’s snorted may lead some users to believe that other drugs may similarly increase in intensity if they’re taken that way. 

However, there is one form of Xanax that might be more intense when it’s snorted than when it’s swallowed. 

What if You Snort Xanax XR?

Xanax XR is an extended-release form of the drug. That means the drug releases its active ingredients overtime after swallowing a single pill. Extended-release pills allow people to take a single pill when they might have to take two at different times throughout the day. Xanax can be effective at doses as small as 0.5 milligrams, while the XR pill contains as much as 3 milligrams. The manufacturers of this drug specifically warn you not to crush or chew the pill. 

Crushed xanax in a dollar bill

If you were to crush and snort Xanax XR, you would deliver a dose that is meant to provide all-day effects all at once. That can cause overdose symptoms and may even be life-threatening. A Xanax overdose may involve heavy sedation, stupor, muscle weakness, slowed breathing, lower body temperature, and a slowed heart rate. In severe cases of overdose, Xanax can slow your breathing to the point of oxygen deprivation, coma, and death. The risk for severe symptoms is greater when Xanax is mixed with alcohol or opioids. 

Extended-release forms of most drugs are more dangerous to snort, crush, or chew because they are designed to safely deliver a higher dose over time. Taking the high dose all at once can increase your risk of mild to severe side effects.

Is Snorting Xanax More Dangerous?

Taking Xanax without a prescription or even using your prescription in a way that’s not recommended can be dangerous. Illicit sources of Xanax may be even riskier. Drugs from non-official sources may be contaminated with other substances. Whether those substances are active or inert, they may be harmful to consume or snort. Since fake Xanax could contain deadly substances like fentanyl, they should be avoided. But snorting Xanax adds another layer of risk. Even inert substances like cornstarch may be harmful to you when you insufflate them. 

Certain powder substances that are used to cut or fill out both genuine and fake Xanax pills can coagulate and clump together, which can cause blockages. These substances may also irritate your nostrils and lead to temporary or even chronic inflammation. For that reason, snorting Xanax may be slightly riskier than taking it in pill form. However, misusing Xanax or taking it from an illicit source may be dangerous no matter how you introduce it to your body.

Sources

Ait-Daoud, N., Hamby, A., Sharma, S., & Blevins, D. (2018). A review of alprazolam use, misuse, and withdrawal. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/

Bond, A. (2018, March 08). Why fentanyl is deadlier than heroin, in a single photo. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2016/09/29/why-fentanyl-is-deadlier-than-heroin/

George, T. T. (2020, August 14). Alprazolam. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538165/

RxList. (2018, February 6). Benzodiazepines Drug Class: Side Effects, Types & Uses. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/benzodiazepines/drug-class.htm

RxList. (2018, April 18). Xanax XR (ALPRAZOLAM): USES, Dosage, side effects, interactions, warning. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/xanax-xr-drug.htm

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