Alprazolam, better known by its brand name Xanax, is a commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication. According to the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, alprazolam appears to also be an effective medication for treating depression. It is a benzodiazepine, a pharmaceutical medication that impacts the central nervous system and the brain.
The drug eases anxiety by creating a calming effect. It is frequently prescribed in tablet form in doses ranging from 0.25 mg to 2 mg. It is among the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medications in the United States.
Because of its effects, many people take Xanax outside of the parameters of a prescription and use the drug recreationally. In some instances, people misuse Xanax by either snorting or injecting the crushed tablets to experience a more rapid and profound reaction. It may be abused by itself or in conjunction with other drugs.
Although Xanax is a commonly prescribed medication, it does have some fairly well-known side effects even when used as prescribed. These include drowsiness, insomnia, slurred speech, and irritability. Sometimes, people experience diarrhea, sweating, and headaches as well. These adverse side effects can be magnified with misuse.
According to Benzodiazepines in Older Adults: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Guidelines, common adverse effects of taking benzodiazepines in general include:
- Loss of coordination
- Anterograde amnesia
Additionally, Xanax is known to have adverse reactions with other medications.
Health Risks of Snorting Xanax
When people opt to snort Xanax, they want to feel the effects of alprazolam faster than digesting it would allow. The crushed medication, when snorted, more quickly impacts the bloodstream to provide the desired effects. It is one of many different pharmaceutical medications that can be crushed and snorted for faster absorption through the mucous membranes in the nose. According to Psychopharmacology, taking Xanax in methods other than as intended, such as snorting or smoking the drug rather than taking it orally in pill form, results in faster onset of effects and also greater risks.
There are many health risks associated with snorting Xanax. These include:
- Tolerance: Tolerance occurs when more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effects previously achieved with a lower dose. Since snorting Xanax often leads to binge use of the drug, this tolerance can form more quickly.
- Dependence: Physical dependence on benzodiazepines can form quickly via any method of consumption, but snorting the drug often leads to dependence and addiction more quickly.
- Damage to nasal passages: Snorting Xanax allows chemicals to damage the nasal passages as the drug enters the body through the nose. The drug dries out the nasal passages and restricts blood flow, resulting in damaged tissue. Damage to nasal tissue can lead to nasal perforation. This damage can cause issues with one’s sense of smell, chronic infections, breathing issues, and aesthetic issues. In some cases, damage to the nasal passages is permanent.
- Perforated nasal septum: As snorting Xanax can impact the nasal passage, the nasal septum, which is the bone, membrane, and cartilage structure separating the left and right parts of the nose, can be damaged. Generally, a hole forms in the septum, known as a septal perforation, and the septum may not be able to provide adequate support and separation for the nasal cavity. Severe damage due to snorting Xanax and other drugs may require surgery to repair the issue.
- Overdose: Overdose is more likely when the drug is snorted. Individuals can take dosages that are too high for the body to process, and this can lead to significant health damage, up to and including death.
Health Risks of Injecting Xanax
Injecting Xanax requires the pills to be crushed and mixed with a liquid solution. The mixture is then injected into veins, muscles, or skin via a syringe. As with snorting Xanax, increased tolerance and rapid physical dependence are risks associated with injecting the drug. Additional risks include:
- Infection: Unsanitary or improperly used needles and syringes can cause infections at injection sites.
- HIV: The human immunodeficiency virus that progresses to AIDS is spread through shared needles. New initiatives, such as single use syringes and filters, reduce the risk, according to PLoS One.
- Hepatitis: Much like HIV, hepatitis can be passed from one person to another with a shared needle.
- Sudden overdose: Because an injection enters the bloodstream so quickly, there is an increased risk for an accidental overdose.
Drugs That Are Commonly Snorted
Xanax is not the only drug that can be sorted. The following is a list of commonly snorted drugs:
- Cocaine: This drug is a stimulant that is derived from the coca plant.
- Tobacco: This legal stimulant is created from the leaves of the tobacco plant. The snorted variety is known as
- Amphetamines: These are pharmaceutical medications that stimulate the central nervous system. These drugs are routinely prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
- Opiate painkillers: Prescription painkillers, such as Percocet, Vicodin, and OxyContin, are commonly crushed and then snorted.
Drugs That Are Commonly Injected
There is a wide range of drugs that can be injected, as water-soluble drugs are widely available and easy to prepare for injection. In 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that 12.7 million people injected drugs on a regular basis. Some of the most commonly injected drugs include:
- Heroin: Heroin is generally the drug most frequently associated with injection drug use.
- Amphetamines: There is a wide range of pharmaceutical amphetamines, including Adderall, Dexedrine, and Desoxyn, that can be injected after the pills are crushed and combined with water or another liquid.
- Barbiturates: These strong central nervous system depressants are capable of providing strong sedation. Injecting these drugs can significantly decrease the amount of time it takes an addiction to form.
- Cocaine: Though cocaine is most commonly snorted, it can also be injected.
Impact of Consumption Method
How a drug is taken changes its associated risks. In the case of Xanax, the medication as prescribed by a doctor is taken orally, usually in tablet form. This is the safest way to take Xanax. It allows for the tablets to be digested at a much slower rate. As discussed, when Xanax is crushed and either injected or snorted, it absorbs into the bloodstream much more quickly.
In general, injecting Xanax is the most dangerous method of taking the drug. The likelihood of accidental overdose is significantly high. Shared needles lead to an increase in the spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, through exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Essentially, infected blood can be passed between those who share needles.
Because of the stress and damage repeatedly placed on injection sites, frequent IV drug use often causes veins to collapse. This can present long-term issues and make regular medical procedures, such as routine blood draws, more difficult. When veins in the arms collapse, individuals may turn to using veins elsewhere on the body.
While injecting Xanax may carry the most risks, snorting the drug is far from safe. Risk of overdose and addiction is high, and significant damage can occur to the nose.
Both snorting and injecting Xanax also carry all the same risks associated with abuse of the drug in any form.