Why Is Snorting Drugs Dangerous?

Cocaine on mirror

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Snorting is a means of using both recreational and prescription drugs. The drug is typically ground up into a powder by chopping it finely with a razor blade on a hard surface. It may then be divided into "lines," and a straw or rolled paper may be used to inhale the drug up into the nasal passages. For some drugs, snorting is the preferred method for misuse, but the short- and long-term effects can lead to significant damage.

Why Snorting Is Common With Drug Misuse

People often snort because they achieve a faster onset of desired effects when compared to other methods of delivery, other than smoking, which is faster than snorting. When snorted, 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 5 to 10 minutes for the drug to be absorbed and start producing effects when taken this way. Snorting may also amplify the effects of the drug, as is often the case with extended-release prescription medication.

Some people think that snorting prescription drugs is safer than snorting "street drugs," but this simply isn't true. Prescription medications are formulated to be taken in a particular manner, often ingested orally, and to be released slowly. When taken properly, the medication is broken down in the stomach before it is absorbed into the bloodstream over time. By snorting, the full effect of the drug is released almost immediately, which can have serious consequences.

The 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 can be easily damaged. As these get damaged, they stop functioning normally, inhibiting normal respiratory actions. Other side effects of snorting drugs include vomiting, constipation, shakiness, dizziness, and increased heart rate. Among the long-term health effects of snorting drugs are the loss of smell, nosebleeds, frequent runny nose, and problems with swallowing.

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

Snorting and Addiction

One of the reasons people snort drugs is that it can enhance the drug's effects, but the strong high that results can make the drug significantly more dangerous to your health.

Painkillers, particularly opioids, are among the most commonly misused medications, although cocaine, heroin, and other drugs are often snorted as well. Just like ingesting drugs in other ways, snorting drugs is also addictive. If you feel an intense need for the drug, regardless of whether it's cocaine or a painkiller, or if you find that you need more to get the same effect, you are addicted to the drug.

Drug Withdrawal and Addiction Recovery

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

If someone you know is misusing drugs, it's important that they understand the serious risks involved. You can help them find an addiction specialist or treatment facility to help them on their way to recovery. Specialists with experience in treating individuals who've snorted drugs can monitor the person's progress and offer emotional support during recovery. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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