Hydroxyzine is a prescription antihistamine used to treat allergy symptoms and anxiety. It’s often sold under the brand names Atarax and Vistaril.
Because hydroxyzine can make you feel calm and relaxed, some people abuse it by crushing the pills into a powder and snorting it through the nose. However, this practice poses serious health risks.
Dangers Of Snorting Hydroxyzine
Snorting hydroxyzine can cause nasal damage. It also increases your risk of hydroxyzine side effects and overdose.
Your nose and nasal passages are very delicate. Snorting hydroxyzine (or any other drug) can damage these delicate tissues, causing problems such as:
- frequent runny nose
- loss of sense of smell
- nasal sores
- nasal blockages
- swelling of the inner lining of the nose
- sinusitis (sinus infection)
- trouble swallowing or breathing
- lung infections
Increased Risk Of Side Effects
When you snort hydroxyzine, the drug can’t enter your body properly or safely. Like other prescription drugs, hydroxyzine is meant to be broken down in your stomach and slowly absorbed into your bloodstream.
However, when you snort hydroxyzine, your nasal tissues absorb the drug and transport it into your bloodstream almost instantly. You will then feel the drug’s effects more quickly and intensely than if you used it as prescribed.
This rapid onset of effects can increase your risk of side effects.
The most common side effects of hydroxyzine include:
- dry mouth
Some people also experience more serious side effects, including:
- low blood pressure
- abnormal heart rhythms
- symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as fever, itching, hives, or skin rash
If you or someone you know experiences these more serious side effects, call your doctor for medical advice right away.
You may face a higher risk of adverse effects if you snort hydroxyzine while using certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. These drugs include:
- opioids, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin)
- barbiturates, such as amobarbital (Amytal) and secobarbital (Seconal)
- sleeping medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- other antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra)
Increased Risk Of Overdose
Along with raising your risk of side effects, snorting hydroxyzine makes you more likely to experience an overdose.
The most common symptoms of hydroxyzine overdose include:
- nausea and vomiting
- blurry vision
- bigger pupils
- ringing in the ears
- shortness of breath
- low blood pressure
- fast heartbeat
- hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
- loss of consciousness
If you think you or someone you know is overdosing on hydroxyzine, seek medical attention immediately. When left untreated, a hydroxyzine overdose may be fatal.
You face a higher risk of hydroxyzine overdose if you snort the drug while using central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines.
That’s because hydroxyzine can also depress (slow down) your central nervous system. When you mix CNS depressants, your nervous system may slow to the point of overdose.
Is Hydroxyzine Addictive?
In many cases, snorting drugs raises your risk of addiction. Addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your use of a drug.
Common symptoms include tolerance (needing increasingly higher or more frequent doses of a drug to feel the desired effects) and physical dependence (experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using a drug).
However, studies suggest that hydroxyzine is not addictive.
That means it won’t cause physical dependence or tolerance. However, if you regularly snort or otherwise abuse hydroxyzine, you might start to crave the drug’s sedative effects. You may then develop other unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- loss of interest in activities that don’t involve hydroxyzine use
- mood swings, anxiety, or irritability when you can’t use hydroxyzine
- avoidance of family and friends so you can spend more time abusing hydroxyzine
Also, you may find it difficult to stop using hydroxyzine on your own. In that case, consider seeking help at a substance abuse treatment program. These programs provide mental health counseling, support groups, and other services to help you stay drug-free.
To learn more about substance abuse treatment options, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stop abusing hydroxyzine.