Snorting Drugs | Substances, Dangers, & Treatment

Snorting drugs, or drug insufflation, is a method of drug abuse. This method of administration can cause damage to the nasal cavity and respiratory system in addition to the risks associated with general drug abuse.

Snorting drugs, or drug insufflation, is a method of drug abuse. Some people snort prescription medications, while others stick to powdered street drugs. 

No matter the drug, snorting is dangerous. It can damage your nose, throat, and lungs. It increases the risk of side effects and overdose, and it also makes you more likely to become addicted.

Snorting Drugs

You can snort powdered drugs like cocaine and heroin as they come. If you choose a prescription drug or something in pill form, you have to crush it into a fine powder before snorting it. 

Then, you make a line of powder on a flat surface, plug one nostril, and inhale through the other. The drug powder goes into your nose where tiny blood vessels absorb it into your bloodstream.

Drug-insufflation paraphernalia includes items for making a powder line and for snorting, such as:

  • a smooth, flat surface like a glass or mirror
  • razor blades for scraping up powder
  • hollow pens, straws, rolled paper (maybe a dollar bill)

Some extended-release drug formulations have safety measures that prevent them from being crushed and snorted. But sometimes there’s a way around it, such as dissolving the outer layer first.  

Which Drugs Can You Snort?

Many drugs can be snorted if you’re able to make them into powder form. 

Some of the most popular drugs for snorting are:

Dangers Of Snorting Drugs

Many people think that snorting drugs is safer than injecting because injection drug use is a line they won’t cross. Some think that snorting is safer than smoking as well since everyone knows that smoke in the lungs is unhealthy.

But there are several dangers of snorting drugs, including:

  • nasal tissue damage
  • throat and lung damage
  • intense side effects
  • overdose
  • fentanyl-laced drugs
  • disease transmission
  • tolerance & physical dependence
  • addiction

Nasal Tissue Damage

The nasal passage contains mucous membranes that keep the nose lubricated. Tiny hairs called cilia trap dirt, dust, and other foreign particles to prevent them from entering your airway.

Drug insufflation damages the delicate tissue in your nose, dries out mucous membranes, and destroys cilia. 

Prescription drugs and street drugs contain fillers (inactive ingredients) that aren’t meant to be snorted. Common fillers in legitimate medicines are starch, calcium salts, and lactose. Street drugs may contain baby powder, laundry soap, or baking soda. These things can severely irritate the nasal cavity.

Snorting drugs regularly and long-term can inflame and erode the inside of your nose. You may experience:

  • dryness
  • chronic runny nose
  • frequent nosebleeds
  • sinus infections
  • a whistling sound when you breathe
  • a hole in the wall between your nostrils (the septum)
  • a hole in the roof of your mouth (the palate)
  • difficulty tasting food or swallowing

Throat & Lung Damage

Your nose is connected to your airway. When you snort drugs, it doesn’t all go into the blood vessels in your nose. Some of it travels down your throat, drips on your vocal cords, and enters your lungs.

Drugs and their fillers can inflame your vocal cords and lungs. Snorting can cause:

  • a sore throat
  • a hoarse voice
  • a dry cough
  • shortness of breath

Some cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis have resulted from drug insufflation. This condition is an immune system disorder caused by an allergic reaction to something in a drug that shouldn’t enter your lungs.

Intense Side Effects

When you abuse a prescription drug, you may be more likely to have side effects. Taking more of a prescription medication than you should presents more opportunities for adverse reactions. 

Some common drug side effects are:

  • raised blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • slowed breathing
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Snorting a drug may have different effects than oral ingestion.

Overdose Risk

When you take drugs orally, they go through your digestive system before being distributed into your bloodstream at a measured rate. Intranasal drug use allows the full dose to enter your system at once. 

Drugs take effect more quickly when they’re snorted but they usually don’t last as long. The short-term effect leads some people to take repeated doses to keep from “coming down” from the effects.

If you’re taking high doses, overlapping doses, or mixing drugs, snorting can cause an overdose, which may be fatal. 

Central nervous system depressants can slow down your vital functions until you lose consciousness and your body stops working. Stimulant drugs can cause heart arrhythmia or a heart attack.

Fentanyl-Laced Drugs

In Ohio in 2021, fentanyl was involved in around 80 percent of unintentional overdose deaths. More than 87,000 fentanyl-laced pills were seized in Ohio that year. Drugs like heroin and cocaine are often found with fentanyl in them as well.

Fentanyl is a potent opioid that’s 50 times stronger than heroin. In many cases, street drug dealers won’t tell buyers that they’ve laced their supply with fentanyl (a method that stretches the supply at a low cost). You don’t know what you’re snorting.

If you snort fentanyl, it’s likely to cause an overdose. Only a small amount of fentanyl can kill you, and putting it directly into your bloodstream is one of the most dangerous methods of use. 

Disease Transmission

If you share drug-snorting paraphernalia, you share bodily fluids, particularly if someone involved has a runny nose or nosebleed. Diseases like hepatitis C can be passed this way.

Tolerance & Physical Dependence

When you take any drug for a prolonged period, your brain and body adjust. After a while, the drug won’t work as well and you’ll have to take a higher dose to get the same effect. That’s called tolerance. If you cut back or stop taking the drug, your tolerance will go down.

Physical dependence goes beyond that. Depressant drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids cause your body to depend on them to function. Without the drugs, your body responds adversely, producing withdrawal symptoms. 

Stimulant drugs can cause dependence too, but it’s more psychological.

Drug insufflation has a more intense effect on the body and mind than taking drugs orally. Tolerance and physical dependence are likely to develop more quickly if you snort a drug.


Addiction is caused, in part, by the effect of drugs on dopamine. Dopamine is a reward chemical in the brain that makes you feel good to reinforce a behavior. When you snort drugs, dopamine levels spike. The rush of positive reinforcement produces a craving to do it again. 

The intense effect of drug snorting can quickly lead to changes in your brain structure that make you need the drug to feel normal. 

When you’re addicted, getting and taking drugs becomes the most important thing. Even if you see your health and life suffering, you’re unable to stop. 

Treatment For Drug Snorting

If you or a loved one are snorting drugs, now is the time to stop. Many addiction treatment programs provide specialized treatment plans for people who snort drugs. Get help now before it causes irreparable damage.

At Ohio Recovery Center, we offer evidence-based treatment options for drug insufflation. Regardless of the type of drug you use, we can help you recover. 

Treatment for drug snorting should include a combination of therapies, such as:

In a personalized treatment program, we’ll nurture your physical and mental health. The goal is to resolve the root of addiction, such as trauma or negative thought patterns. You’ll learn healthy coping skills and make lifestyle changes that lead to lasting recovery.

Speak to one of our treatment specialists today to learn more.

  1. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  3. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls,tissues%20to%20perform%20specific%20functions.
  4. Science-Based Medicine
  5. Sherrod Brown,than%20four%20months%20last%20year.

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 16, 2023

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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