How is Xanax abused?

Xanax is usually abused by chewing or snorting the pills, or by self-medicating for anxiety. In fact, any use of Xanax OTHER THAN PRESCRIBED is considered Xanax abuse. More here on signs of Xanax abuse and what you can do about them.

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The most common way people abuse Xanax (alprazolam) is by snorting or chewing it.

But when you snort or chew Xanax, you can increase the risk of adverse side effects, increase the intensity of withdrawal, and put yourself at serious risk (Xanax abuse can even have fatal consequences). Continue reading here for more on how Xanax is abused. Then, we invite your questions regarding Xanax abuse, how you can treat Xanax addiction and how to help Xanax addiction in the designated section at the end.

Can Xanax be abused?

Yes, Xanax can be abused. In fact, this benzodiazepine medication is considered the second most popular drug of abuse (after the opioid class of prescription drugs). Xanax is recommended only for use on short term basis and prescribed therapeutically to treat anxiety, panic disorders, insomnia (trouble sleeping), and anxiety caused by depression. However, doctors tend to keep prescribing and patients keep taking it regularly. Some may continue use despite being ware of the possible consequences, but others don’t know that long term Xanax use can be problematic.

Xanax is classified as a scheduled IV narcotic. This means it doesn’t have the same liability of abuse as heroin and other similar illicit drugs. Now, you are probably wondering what gives Xanax such a high liability of abuse. The answer is: Xanax has a serious effect on the central nervous system (CNS). Over time, your body can build up both a tolerance and a dependence to it.

Tolerance makes it necessary to take more Xanax on order to achieve the original effects the drug once produced.

– Dependence means that your body goes through withdrawal and may physically crave the drug when you stop taking it.

Xanax abuse may begin with a desire to mitigate the pain of withdrawal (never try to quit Xanax cold turkey). The physical aspects of withdrawal as well as the psychological ones can be extreme if you quit suddenly and abruptly, so many people go back to using because they can’t handle withdrawal.

How Xanax is abused

Xanax is most commonly abused by snorting (insufflation) or chewing a Xanax bar. Another way of abuse is taking more than what is prescribed and increasing the amount or frequency of use on your own. Those who abuse Xanax are trying speed up the onset of effects and to feel effects with the greatest potency possible. Chewing Xanax gets the drug into the saliva and into the bloodstream. While, snorting the medication delivers Xanax through the nasal passages and the mucus membrane to the bloodstream for quicker action.

Many time those who abuse Xanax are also abusing other drugs. Many people are poly-drug users. Because Xanax effects anxiety and acts as a tranquillizer, people who use opiates or alcohol might also use Xanax as a means of self-medicating theses withdrawal symptoms and it may be hard to notice if other substance use is present.

Xanax abuse side effects

When you snort, chew, or take Xanax other than prescribed, you increase risks of side effects and the intensity of withdrawal. In fact, reactions and symptoms of the misuse of Xanax usually include symptoms of withdrawal, especially after long term use.

Advserse side effects of Xanax abuse may include:

  • hallucinations
  • impaired cognition and movement
  • over activity
  • seizures
  • slurred speech
  • suicidal thoughts
  • uncontrolled movements
  • vision impairment
  • vomiting/nausea

Signs of Xanax abuse

Some red flags of Xanax abuse may be difficult to identify, especially if a person is prescribed Xanax for a medical reasons. If you think that someone you know and love may be abusing Xanax, you can look for the following signs.

  • altered moods and demeanour
  • changed route of administration
  • disengaged from reality
  • financial problems
  • finding doctors that will prescribe more Xanax (doctor shopping)
  • lethargy and apathetic behavior
  • preoccupation with obtaining and using Xanax
  • running through Xanax prescriptions too fast
  • withdrawing from family and friends

Once you have pinpointed the signs of abuse, you can decide what you next steps should be. You can investigate online to learn more, search for paraphernalia, have an open conversation, or even set up an intervention.

When you are sure that professional help is needed you can talk to your prescribing doctor as a first point of contact. Doctors can connect you with local resources and services. You may also want to seek help from a licensed clinical psychologist who can address the underlying causes of anxiety and help you treat them without the use of prescription drugs.

Xanax abuse questions?

Has abuse lead to an addiction that you needs treatment? Are you thinking of withdrawal? Or finding an alternative way to treat anxiety? There are ways you can successfully treat Xanax abuse and addiction!

Still have questions about Xanax abuse?  Please leave your questions below. We try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: National Institute of Drug Abuse: Commonly Abused prescription Drugs
NIDA: Understanding drug abuse and addiction
NCBI: Benzodiazepines Risk, Abuse, and Dependence
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. It seems so strange that people would abuse Xanax. It sucks for people with diagnosed anxiety, because doctors may be more hesitant to prescribe it to them in fear of them abusing them. It took me years to get an Ativan prescription (not the same drug but in the same family of drugs) for my panic attacks, so it was kind of annoying knowing that people take Xanax for fun when I couldn’t even take it for medical reasons.

  2. @Joe, the reason quitting Xanax cold turkey is a bad idea is that you can literally die. It’s better to taper off under the care of a physician or on your own.

  3. Why are people taking it? Is it a speed or a downer or is a neutral with addictive properties? I’m having a hard time on figuring out why it’s popular.

  4. This article is not well written. Bad grammar, very repeative and uniformative. People who actually need Xanax do not abuse it and are not poly drug users. And also if you are addicted, you should try to quit cold turkey as you would be wanting to keep using it because of your tolerance. Also lorapezam is not xanax, its a sedative base anxiety medication that is unable to achieve a high. You need to rewrite this without the signs of abuse section because you wrote it as a diagnosing aid and not everyone would is the same in that situation.

  5. Whoever says that sniffing xanax is not effective, in my opinion, is completely wrong. I have a fairly high tolerance to all opiates, and take benzos once or twice a week. sniffing Xanax=rush of euphoria, quicker onset, longer duration.

    BUT=Do not mix xanax and alcohol, it’s an easy way to OD, they are two CNS depressants that together can stop your breathing and unless you like blacking out, having no control of yourself or memory of your night mixing the two is no bueno. I have mixed the two and the effect, (1) I get sick and vomit, and (2) I time travel. Time travel because after sniffing a bar, 2 shots and 2 beers I black out, wake up the next morning with no recollection of how I got home or what I did after that second shot and beer.

  6. Hi Tina. I’d suggest you make an appointment with a doctor. He/she can make tests and examine your daughter to see why she’s been loosing weight. You can also ask for guidence and advise on how to help her taper down and then quit Xanax. It’s not a good idea to quit Xanax cold turkey and without conuslting a medical proffesional.

  7. my daughter says that she has been taking xanex everyday for about 3 mths and she has been taking 1mg twice a day (2 bars). she has lost about 20lbs. Is this an addiction and will she experience withdrawal symptoms if just stopping cold turkey? what should I do?

  8. This blog is very helpful to those out there fighting addiction to pain killers or any kind of pills.Oral Administration of a pill such as Xanax is one of the most popular ways to take pills.When its swallowed it passes through the small intestine which effects how fast the drug processes in the body. Although pills are probably the most efficient ways of taking the drugs. It can also be a very easy way to become addicted.

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