Benzodiazepines (benzos) are prescription drugs commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Although benzos are typically prescribed to be taken orally, sometimes people misuse their prescription by snorting.
Snorting benzos increases the risk of becoming physically dependent or addicted. Snorting also poses many health dangers, including respiratory problems and addiction. If you suspect a loved one of misusing their prescription, professional facilities can help treat benzodiazepine addiction.
Long-term use of benzos increases the risk of developing a tolerance. This can lead to drug abuse by snorting the medication to increase its effects.
Abuse of benzos has become a widespread problem, similar to the opioid epidemic. Snorting increases the chance of becoming addicted or experiencing a dangerous overdose.
How Snorting Benzos Works
People snort benzo tablets by crushing them into a fine powder and inhaling the powder into the nasal passages. Generally, when a drug is snorted it sends the drug directly into the bloodstream and produces rapid and intense effects.
Xanax, a brand-name drug known as alprazolam, is a potent benzodiazepine. Xanax is commonly used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. When someone snorts Xanax, it may only take about two minutes to start producing effects.
In comparison, it can take up to 45 minutes to take effect when taken orally.
Along with Xanax, other benzodiazepines include:
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Serax (oxazepam)
Effects Of Snorting Benzodiazepines
Benzos are central nervous system (CNS) depressants that slow down heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. They increase the effect of a neurotransmitter called gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
Increasing GABA reduces anxiety and increases sedation. When snorted, it can also cause euphoric feelings. Depending on the dose and type of benzo, you may experience more intense side effects.
Snorting benzos may increase the intensity of the following side-effects:
- dry mouth
- slowed heart rate
- low blood pressure
Snorting benzos also increases the risk of experiencing negative health effects or a potentially life-threatening overdose.
Dangers Of Snorting Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepine tablets are designed to be taken orally and passed through the digestive tract. They may contain additives or ingredients that can be harmful to your respiratory system, especially the nasal passages.
Long-term snorting of benzodiazepines increases the risk of the following health risks:
- sinus infections
- nasal inflammation
- decreased sense of smell
- difficulty swallowing
- runny nose
Chronic snorting can lead to serious damage to the nasal cavities that may result in nasal septum perforation. This is a serious condition that causes a hole in the cartilage between the two nasal cavities.
Signs of nasal septum perforation include:
- decreased sense of smell
- scabbing in nasal passages
- frequent nosebleeds
- whistling sound in the nose
HIV and Hepatitis C are both viral infections that can be spread by contact with contaminated blood. Using contaminated snorting equipment, like straws, can increase the spread of these viral infections.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) affects the immune system and makes it more difficult to fight infections. Common signs of HIV include swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, fever, and chills.
Hepatitis C affects the liver and can cause severe liver damage if left untreated. Symptoms of hepatitis C may include fatigue, nausea, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin).
Sometimes people combine benzos with other central nervous system depressants, especially opioids and alcohol. Combining benzos with other depressant drugs is dangerous because it increases the risk of respiratory depression.
Respiratory depression is characterized by slow or labored breathing, which is a sign of overdose.
Depressant drugs share similar side-effects and signs of overdose, including:
- slowed or stopped breathing
- loss of consciousness
- excessive drowsiness
- impaired coordination
If you notice any of these warning signs in a loved one, seek medical attention immediately.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
Long-term snorting of benzodiazepines increases the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). Substance use disorder, also known as addiction, is a serious disease that includes a loss of control over drug use and a decreased quality of life.
Treatment centers offer programs tailored to your individual needs and can help you learn to live without drugs.
Although treatment is individualized, most addiction centers offer the following:
- detox, which helps you overcome withdrawal symptoms in a supervised and supportive environment
- outpatient programs, which offer the convenience of scheduled visits to a treatment facility
- inpatient programs, which provide long-term treatment with 24/7 supervision and a structured environment
- behavioral therapy, which teaches you how to cope with triggers and cravings in a healthy way
If you would like more information on treatment options for benzodiazepine addiction, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.