While many people believe that snorting heroin is safer than injecting it, this isn’t actually the case. The effects of sniffing heroin can be just as dangerous and deadly as shooting the substance into muscle tissue or veins.
Snorting Heroin: Facts, Dangers and Side Effects
As with any drug, heroin can have different side effects and risks depending on whether it is ingested, shot up or snorted. However, the substance poses severe health risks and can cause the user to develop a dependency on it no matter which method they use to consume it. Sniffing heroin, therefore, is not a “safer” option and can still cause major problems for the user. It is highly addictive, even in small doses and can lead to long-term health problems, overdoses and even death.
This article will answer some of your questions about snorting heroin and explain some of the dangers and side effects involved in doing so.
Can You Snort Heroin?
Yes. The common person might associate heroin with needles, but heroin can, in fact, be snorted. Given that the drug is often purchased in powder form, this is a quicker way for the user to get high. However, many users, particularly those in the later stages of addiction, prefer cooking the drug so that it can be turned into liquid and shot up using a needle. Those who snort the drug are commonly early-stage heroin users.
Many drug users learn early on in their addiction that injection is the easiest way to create a fast and long-lasting high. When a substance is injected, its chemicals enter the bloodstream directly and start to take effect within seconds.
When snorted, on the other hand, a powdered substance must be broken down by the body before the chemicals contained in it are sent to the brain. It is absorbed by the tissue inside of the nose before being carried through the bloodstream to various parts of the nervous system. Therefore, it can take as long as a few minutes after its been sniffed before the chemicals contained in heroin reach the brain. Those who snort heroin will feel a similar rush as someone who injects the drug.
Why Do People Choose Snorting Over Injection?
People resort to snorting H and other narcotics for a variety of reasons. Some of them want to see what the high feels like but are afraid of the needles involved in the injection process. Other people think that sniffing the drug is a safer alternative because it does not come with the risk of hepatitis or HIV.
Also, there isn’t quite the same social stigma around snorting heroin as there is around injecting the drug. Think about it. You never really see TV characters who sniff opiates. Instead, we are constantly shown images of drug addicts who use needles to inject the drug. Some heroin users think that, by avoiding needles, they can convince themselves that that don’t have a problem.
In addition, addicts may be able to better hide their addiction by sniffing instead of using needles. Over time, after all, heroin addicts who inject the drug will start to show traces of use on their inner elbow or other parts of their body. Snorting heroin does not leave the same marks. Some people feel that they can keep their addiction a secret if they avoid accumulating physical signs of use on their arms.
Whatever their reason for doing so, consuming heroin through the nose is still a very dangerous and potentially deadly practice.
Is Snorting Less Addictive Than Injection?
No. The myth that snorting heroin is less addictive than injecting it comes from that fact that nasal consumption doesn’t allow as much of the substance to reach the brain. In turn, the user may not feel as euphoric as someone who shoots up. However, the user will still get high off of the drug and, depending on how much they snort, can feel effects that are similar to those felt during IV use.
It has been shown that users who snort drugs tend to consume more of the substance than those who shoot up. This can be attributed to the fact that people who inject need less of a substance in order to feel the effects of it. Additionally, the effects don’t last as long. This means that, in one night, a casual heroin user can sniff more of the substance than a severe addict who injects the drug.
Those who use heroin in any capacity are prone to developing a dependency on the substance. As the practice of snorting starts to weaken in its effect, even those who are afraid of needles may turn to injection in order to reach a bigger high. Over time, the user can convince themselves that the high is what matters, not their fear of needles or of looking like an addict. They may get to a point where they accept that injection is the most efficient way to maximize the effects of the drug.
Is It Worse Than Oral Ingestion?
Heroin can be ingested orally in pill form. Many early users of the drug take it in this manner, having transitioned to the drug as a cheap alternative to prescription narcotics. Using heroin in pill form can be highly addictive and poses the same dangerous risks and is therefore not recommended. However, taking the drug orally poses slight less risk only due to the fact that pills are often measured and labels, allowing the user to take a more controlled dose.
It is important to remember that there is no “safe” dose of heroin, no matter how small of an amount is used. Particularly when purchased on the street, the user can never be quite sure what chemicals their batch has been cut with. In addition, it is easy for users to misjudge the amount that their body is prepared to handle and they may experience an overdose if they take too much.
Can You Overdose from Snorting Dope?
Yes. Although some people might tell you that you can’t die from snorting heroin, this is not the case.
In fact, it is possible that taking the drug through the nose can increase the chances of overdose, due to the fact that snorters are often the most casual heroin users. In other words, someone who sniffs the drug has most likely not developed a severe addiction to the substance (if they were, they might have already transitioned to injection) and therefore don’t have as high of a tolerance for it.
An overdose happens when the body isn’t accustomed to high quantities of the drug, so those who are used to injecting it are less likely to take a dose that’s too high. Of course, even those people who use needles can still take too much heroin. Those who snort heroin put themselves at great risk of ingesting too big of a dose.
One of the major effects that heroin has is numbing the parts of the nervous system that regulates heart rate and air supply. When an individual takes too much, therefore, the user may stop breathing and deprive them of the oxygen they need for their body to function properly. During an overdose, the user’s breathing slows down to the point where they enter a coma and can damage their brain or even die. This numbing of the nervous system happens just as much when a person snorts heroin as when they inject it, making sniffing as dangerous when it comes to overdose risks as other forms of consumption.
Dangers and Side-Effects
In addition to overdoses, users who snort heroin put themselves at risk of all sorts of side-effects. One such danger is the negative effects that powdered drugs have on the interior of the nose. As heroin is taken in through the nasal cavity, it burns at the tissue it comes in contact with. This can create holes and lesions along the mucous membrane. It may not take long before the user finds their nasal tissue to become inflamed.
In the long-term, this can create breathing problems for the user. Snorting can essentially cause the nasal tissue to swell to the point that it creates blockages in the nose. This is particularly dangerous for those who already have lung issues like asthma and emphysema or are prone to illnesses like bronchitis.
Although heroin users who snort reduce the risk of contracting HIV through drug use, they do not eliminate the other side effects that the substance presents. Like other dope users, they will weaken their immune system, increasing the likelihood of illnesses and infections.
Other long-term effects can include:
- Weakened muscles
- Reduced sexual functions
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Memory loss
- Decrease in IQ
- Profuse sweating
- Constant feelings of itchiness
- Gum inflammation
Signs That Someone is Snorting
Because snorting doesn’t leave track marks, it can be difficult to identify the signs of heroin use when the user avoids shooting up. While the signs may not be as clear as when someone uses needles, there are still things that you can look for if you think someone you know may have an addiction to the drug.
Long-term sickness is one symptom of heroin use. People who snort, smoke or inject the drug take a serious toll on their own immune systems. Heroin produces histamines in the body, which can cause various organs to become inflamed over time. Particularly if the user has an allergy to these histamines (which many people aren’t aware that they have), heroin can cause the flu or a cold that seemingly never ends. The user will most likely have a runny nose, a cough, a headache and chronic fatigue for the length of the time that they use the drug.
A more drastic sign is a small hole in the nasal cavity. This mostly occurs in folks who snort heroin or other drugs either in large quantities or regularly over many years. This can be hard to spot and, most likely will not appear on people who have just recently begun snorting drugs but is a clear sign of drug use.
As is the case with many drugs, heroin addiction can sometimes be identified by a decrease in the user’s productivity at work or school, a change in their hygiene habits or a negative shift in their attitude toward life. While this can also be a sign of depression or other problems that the person is facing, it can sometimes point to drug use.
Withdrawals from Snorting Heroin
Just because a heroin user chooses to snort the drug over injecting it does not make them unsusceptible to addiction. Their body can still easily become dependent on the drug within the first few times they use it. In turn, heroin sniffers can experience severe withdrawal symptoms after they stop using the drug.
Anyone who has ever gone through heroin withdrawal will tell you that the experience isn’t pleasant. The extreme pain can cause the user to relapse in order to ease the physical and psychological effects of withdrawing from the drug. Depending on the severity of the user’s addiction, withdrawal symptoms can appear within the first day after they stop using the drug and can last for up to a week.
While withdrawals aren’t usually deadly, they can cause long-term health problems in those users who have weak immune systems. Pregnant women and those who have HIV are at great risk during the withdrawal process. For others, withdrawal symptoms will usually include:
- Extreme nausea
- Sensitivity to pain
- Profuse sweating
- Blurred vision
- Muscle pain
- Flu-like symptoms
Does Someone You Love Snort Heroin?
If you suspect or know that someone in your life is snorting heroin, it’s important to get them help. The fact that they avoid injecting the drug does not make them any safer. Using heroin in any capacity is dangerous and puts the user’s health and life at risk.
People who snort heroin now are more likely to transition to an IV-user later on, so helping them now before their problem grows worse is the best thing you can do.