Why Is Snorting Drugs Dangerous?

Snorting Drugs is Often Mistakenly Thought to Be Safe

Woman snorting something off of her phone
Jac Depczyk/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Snorting is a means of using drugs, both recreational drugs and prescription medications. The drug is typically ground up into a powder by chopping the drug with a razor blade on a hard surface. The drug is then divided into "lines," then using a straw or rolled paper, snorting the drug up into the nasal passages. 

People snort because they achieve a faster onset; the drug is absorbed almost immediately into the bloodstream through the soft tissues in the nasal cavities. Depending on the individual and the drug being used, it can take as little as five to ten minutes for the drug to be absorbed and to begin producing effects. 

While some people think that snorting prescription drugs is safer than using other drugs, that actually isn't true. By snorting, you are using the drug in a way that it was never intended to be used, with serious consequences. Painkillers, particularly opioids, are some of the most commonly abused medications, though cocaine, heroin and other drugs are often snorted as well. 

Snorting and Addiction

One of the reasons people snort drugs is that it can enhance the drug's effects or make them happen faster. This strong high makes the drug significantly more dangerous to your health. In the case of painkillers, those drugs are designed to be taken in a particular manner so they are released slowly; by snorting it, you are forcing the reaction to occur much faster, with serious consequences. 

Just like using drugs in other ways, snorting drugs is also addictive. If you feel an intense need for the drug, regardless if it's cocaine or a painkiller, or need more to get the same effect, you are addicted to the drug. 

Dangers of Snorting

Snorting drugs has a number of health consequences. You can damage your respiratory system, making it difficult for you to breathe normally. The nasal membranes are extremely delicate and easily damaged. As these get damaged, they stop being able to function normally, inhibiting normal respiratory actions. Other side effects of snorting drugs include vomiting, constipation, shakiness, dizziness and increased heart rate. 

The drugs themselves, regardless of how you ingest them, can also cause heart failure, coma, seizures and even death. 

Withdrawal From Snorting

If you have snorted drugs and have become reliant on them, quitting may be challenging. You may have difficulty sleeping, chills, shakes, soreness or mood swings. While these feelings can be disconcerting, they should not discourage you from quitting. Abusing drugs can have significant mental, physical, financial and legal ramifications. 

If someone you know is abusing drugs or snorting medications, it's important that they understand the serious risks involved. If they are willing to accept the fact that they have an addiction and are willing to quit, you can help them find an addiction specialist or treatment facility to help them on their way to recovery. Specialists and facilities with experience supporting former drug snorters can monitor the individual's progress and ensure that he or she is supported and healthy throughout the process. 

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Sheehan, M., Sheehan, D., Torres, A. "Snorting Benzodiazepines". The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 457-468, 1991.