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Risks & Dangers of Snorting Xanax

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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.

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.

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.[2] 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 include:[1]

  • 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.


  • 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
  • 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

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.