Xanax (alprazolam) is a prescription benzodiazepine (benzo) medication to treat acute anxiety and panic disorders. The tablet is meant to be taken orally by mouth and digested through the gastrointestinal system. While it is possible to smoke Xanax, this is considered much riskier than when Xanax is taken as directed. Moreover, it is more likely to lead to severe adverse health consequences, dependence, and addiction.
Benzo medications are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that work on GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) levels in the brain. GABA is an essential chemical messenger that assists in managing the stress response and acts as a tranquilizer. Xanax increases the amount of GABA in the brain, which reduces anxiety, slows down breathing and heart rates, blood pressure, and lowers body temperature.
Xanax Misuse and Abuse
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), CNS depressants, opioids, and stimulants are among the most commonly abused classes of prescription drugs. For example, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH, 2016), about 2.5 million Americans misused a prescription sedative at least once in the month before the survey. Xanax is often abused recreationally for its euphoric high or without a prescription as a means of self-medication.
Xanax can be abused by ingested the tablets outside of the constraints of a legitimate prescription. Chewing the pills or crushing them to smoke, snort, or inject the residual powder is also considered abuse. Using these methods is dangerous as it bypasses the natural mechanism designed to break down the medication through the gastrointestinal system.
When Xanax is smoked or ingested in any way other than through oral ingestion, instead of slowly entering the bloodstream as it is metabolized in the stomach, it is transferred directly over the blood-brain barrier and into the bloodstream thereby inducing effects more rapidly and intensely.
Repeated abuse events can increase the risk of incurring a toxic buildup and life-threatening overdose. NIDA reports that more than 10,000 Americans lost their lives to an overdose that involved benzos in 2016, a number that has risen eightfold since 2002.
Snorting Xanax can also cause drug tolerance or physical and emotional dependence more rapidly than taking it orally, which may increase the risk of full-blown addiction.
Potential Side Effects of Xanax Abuse
Even when Xanax is administered orally, overuse can still lead to some side effects, including the following:
- Slurred speech
- Impaired balance
- Slowed reflexes
- Slowed pulse and heart rate
- Lowered body temperature
- Shallow breathing
Although an overdose of Xanax on its own does not usually lead to coma or death, this is much more likely to occur if it’s used or abuse in conjunction with other CNS depressants, such as opioids or alcohol. In addition, when snorted, Xanax can take almost immediate effect, and it can be challenging to control or reverse the side effects.
Risks of Smoking Xanax
Aside from the increased risk of overdose, drug dependence, and addiction, smoking Xanax can lead to many other adverse consequences. In the short term, smoking Xanax can cause burns on the hands or face and respiratory complications.
In addition, smoking drugs of any form can affect the respiratory system, resulting in chronic cough, a heightened risk for developing lung and respiratory infections (e.g., bronchitis and pneumonia), and possibly an increased likelihood of developing certain types of cancers such as one related to the lungs.
Not only does inhaling Xanax cause it to affect the brand body more rapidly, using this method of administration can make the drug more potent in lower doses. As a result, a smaller amount of Xanax has a more significant impact when smoked than when administered orally.
When smoked, Xanax is often mixed with other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, other prescription medications, or alcohol. However, combining Xanax with an intoxicating substance is even more dangerous. It can exacerbate and even compound all of the possible effects of each drug, and the likelihood of experiencing a life-threatening overdose increases exponentially.
Other Facts, Warning, and Risks
A Xanax high is similar to one related to alcohol intoxication. A person snorting Xanax is liable to be more social, have fewer inhibitions, be unable to reason or make intelligent decisions. They may, therefore, take bigger risks that can lead to accidents or injuries, or actions that are later lamented. Also, the risk for unwanted pregnancy and contracting a sexually transmitted disease, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS, is increased with Xanax intoxication.
When Xanax is used regularly for a prolonged period, a person can develop a drug tolerance and, as a result, feel the need to increase the dosage to experience the desired effects. Unfortunately, increasing the dosage can rapidly lead to physical dependence. A dependence on Xanax will cause the individual will struggle with severe and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly as Xanax is eliminated from the body.
Medication guides for Xanax warn that the drug is not to be stopped suddenly, even when taken as directed for medical purposes because withdrawal can be significant. In addition, Xanax can cause drug dependence to form more rapidly, so withdrawal may be more intense.
Xanax withdrawal can include severe side effects, such as delusions, fever, and seizures. In addition, the adverse withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings that can onset after Xanax effects subside can make it challenging for an individual to discontinue drug use and, therefore, lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior.
It is essential to realize that drug dependence and addiction are brain diseases that affect the brain’s chemistry and lead to harmful behaviors, such as an inability to control drug use. Moreover, a person may be motivated to stop taking Xanax but fail to do so on their own despite multiple attempts. When this occurs, medical intervention and professional help are often needed.
Getting Help for Xanax Abuse
Using Xanax without a prescription, in higher amounts than prescribed, or by methods of ingestion other than oral tablets is considered abuse. In addition, it increases many of the risks associated with this drug’s use. As such, persons engaging in any of these behaviors are urged to seek professional help as soon as possible.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer individualized, comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs that feature a wide variety of therapeutic services and activities, including the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Group support
- Substance abuse education
- Health and wellness strategies
- Relapse prevention
- Mindfulness meditation
- Art and music therapy
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni events
Our skilled and compassionate medical and mental health staff are available 24/7 to ensure those we treat receive around-the-clock care during detox and residential stays. We provide a safe, comfortable environment conducive to recovery and healing. As a result, each individual in our care can experience relief from the worst withdrawal symptoms and focus on their sobriety, health, and future goals.