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Snorting Xanax and Other Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction

March 19, 2021

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The benzodiazepine drug alprazolam, more commonly known under its brand name Xanax, is a kind of sedative. Doctors prescribe Xanax primarily to treat sleep disorders, anxiety attacks, or seizures. However, its calming effects have made it and other benzos commonly misused pharmaceutical drugs. Some individuals, in search of a more potent effect, try snorting Xanax through the nose. This practice can lead to some very serious consequences, and can be a sign that someone may have a drug dependency. 

What is Xanax?

Xanax is in the family of benzodiazepines, commonly shortened to ‘benzos’. The exact chemical that makes up Xanax is alprazolam. Benzos in general are central nervous system depressants, which means they slow down body processes. This can make them excellent candidates for treating some patients with anxiety or panic disorders.


What does Xanax feel like?

When an individual takes Xanax, the chemical alprazolam makes its way to the brain, where the substance interacts with specific receptors.  This causes the calming effect that Xanax is known for. Individuals who take Xanax may also experience some of these symptoms:

  • Sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia

These symptoms are uncommon, though. Only a small number of individuals who took Xanax experienced them. Developing a dependence is one of the biggest risks when taking Xanax. Whether psychological or physical, a dependence can cause an individual to take more than prescribed, or form a substance abuse addiction.

Is Xanax Addictive?

When used for the correct medical purposes, Xanax can be helpful. It treats a variety of symptoms effectively. However, Xanax’s effects can be addictive in high amounts, and some individuals may seek to take Xanax simply for its sedative effects, and not to treat any kind of medical condition. This can lead to dependence, abuse, addiction, and overdose.

Xanax's effects can be addictive in high amounts, and can lead to dependence, abuse, or overdose.

Xanax Dependence

A dependence to Xanax is characterized by a desire to keep taking the drug, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms after a missed dose. When left unchecked, a dependence can worsen into a substance abuse disorder, and the individual can become addicted.

Symptoms of Xanax or Benzo Misuse

When an individual develops an addiction to Xanax, they may begin to crave the substance, and only care about the effect that it gives. Because of this, they might resort to taking Xanax in different ways to experience its effects faster.

Snorting Xanax is one of the most common ways this is done. By inhaling the crushed powder, individuals can experience the effects of Xanax faster. This is one of the most telling symptoms of a Xanax use disorder, but continued high doses can result in several long-term side effects, too:

  • Memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor motor control
  • Loss of hand-eye coordination
  • Decreased mental capacity

The withdrawal symptoms of Xanax can also be very unpleasant. They generally manifest when a dependent individual stops taking the drug, and can make quitting very difficult. Because the crave of Xanax can be so strong, and it can seem to ‘cure’ the symptoms of withdrawal, individuals can find it incredibly difficult to stop taking a substance they’ve become addicted to. These are symptoms of withdrawal for Xanax: 

  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Panic Attacks
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting

Side effects of Xanax misuse: memory loss, trouble concentrating, poor motor control, loss of hand-eye coordination, decreased mental capacity

Klonopin vs Xanax

To get some perspective, it may be helpful to compare Xanax to another common benzodiazepine, Klonopin. Since these two drugs are of the same substance family, they share some characteristics.

Prescribed to Treat:

As sedatives, these two prescription drugs can treat many of the same disorders, but doctors make decisions based on the patient, and choose the best substance for them.

Klonopin: seizures, anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia

Xanax: anxiety, panic disorders, episodic anxiety, and insomnia

Half Life:

The half life of a substance communicates how long the drug will stay in an individual’s system. A drug’s half life is the amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body. The longer the half life, the longer it takes to completely eliminate the substance.

Klonopin: 19-60 hours. May take several days to a week to completely eliminate.

Xanax: 12-15 hours. Likely won’t take more than five days.

Individuals who distribute drugs may label a substance as Xanax, but it could actually be a different substance entirely.

Risks of Snorting Xanax and Prescription Benzodiazepines

Aside from being addictive, abusing Xanax can lead to a multitude of dangers and problems. One of the most threatening is overdose. Whenever an individual takes more than prescribed or enough to produce dangerously strong symptoms, they may experience an overdose. This is more likely when someone is crushing and snorting the drug, as they may lose track of the dose they’ve taken. 

Xanax overdoses are usually characterized by:

  • Unclear speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Decreased breathing
  • Coma
  • Death

Additionally, Xanax is often mislabeled. Individuals who distribute drugs may label a substance as Xanax, but it could actually be a different substance entirely. This ‘fake Xanax’ can have a wide variety of other substances in it, including fentanyl. This can lead to an individual purchasing what they believe to be Xanax, only to experience the effects of a completely different substance.


Xanax addiction, or any kind of substance abuse disorder, can be life threatening. The risks involved can impact more than just the individual who is suffering from the disorder. Overcoming an addiction can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a journey taken alone. If you think you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, contact us today. If you’d like to read more about substance abuse or similar topics, read our blog.