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Xanax is a commonly prescribed and frequently abused medication, primarily used for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. It was first made available to the public in 1981 and was soon dubbed a “blockbuster drug” due to the high number of people requesting and receiving the medication. Millions of prescriptions for Xanax were issued each year to people with anxiety and stress problems. It got to the point that you could easily find – and steal – a bottle of Xanax in a family member’s medicine cabinet. People began to take it recreationally due to the fact that high doses of the drug can result in an intense euphoric high followed by feelings of peace and calm.
Though Xanax typically comes in pill form, it can be crushed up into a powder to be smoked or snorted. The reason people do this is because these forms of intake dramatically increase the intensity of the high and cause it to begin much faster than it would if taken orally. When taken orally, a drug must first pass through the digestive system before reaching the bloodstream. As the drug moves from the stomach to the small intestine and from the intestine to the bloodstream, it’s spread out, causing it to reach the brain gradually rather than all at once. This makes for a significantly longer but less intense high.
When snorted or smoked, the drug bypasses the digestive system and goes straight into the blood to be carried to the brain. Therefore, most of the substance gets to the brain at the same time, resulting in a short but intense high, typically beginning with a “rush” of euphoria. Smoking produces the fastest high as the drug goes straight into the lungs and the oxygenated blood that reaches the brain in around a minute. A snorted drug is absorbed by the mucus membranes in the sinuses and must travel to the lungs first before being sent to the brain.
There are, however, many drawbacks to abusing Xanax like this. First, faster and more intense highs increase a person’s chance of overdosing or becoming addicted to the drug. According to Health Research Funding, 125,000 people end up in the emergency room every year due to complications from Xanax. Addiction to a benzodiazepine can be particularly dangerous, as withdrawal symptoms can include seizures, suicidal urges, and other potentially deadly symptoms. Smoking and snorting also tends to amplify the negative side effects of Xanax, which include:
Additionally, there’s no way to crush up a pill enough to avoid getting small particles stuck in your lungs and sinuses. The grit of the substance also wears at the sinuses, irritating them and leaving the person vulnerable to sinus infections. Over time, people can even wear a hole in their septum.
Smoking is always hard on the lungs and increases the incidence of respiratory infection. It can also aggravate asthma and possibly increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer. It’s not even worth the trouble, because when smoking Xanax, the heat burns away much of the volume of the pill’s active ingredients.
Abusing Xanax in any form is never safe, but snorting or smoking comes with additional risks and negative effects.