Cocaine is unique from many drugs, both illicit and prescription, in that it can be used four different ways: orally, intranasally, intravenously and through inhalation. Oral use involves rubbing the substance onto a person’s gums. Intravenous use requires dissolving the substance in water and then injecting cocaine into a person’s bloodstream. Inhalation involves smoking cocaine. Intranasal use is done by snorting cocaine through the nose.

Depending on the method used, there will be different interactions and effects experienced by the person using cocaine. A common way cocaine is consumed is through snorting the substance.

Snorting cocaine causes the drug to reach the bloodstream through a person’s nasal tissues. People who regularly use cocaine intranasally are likely to experience physical effects and health risks unique to this method of cocaine use.

How to Snort Cocaine

Snorting cocaine is relatively easy to do. No drug paraphernalia is necessary to snort cocaine. A flat surface and a rolled up dollar bill or a piece of paper can be used to sniff up the powdered drug in a line. Some people may sniff a line of cocaine directly off a table or flat surface without the use of a tube.

What Happens If You Snort Cocaine?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2017 report showed that in a given month there were nearly 2.2 million cocaine users. With such widespread use, it’s important to know what side effects are involved and what permanent damage can occur with repeated use.

Snorting Cocaine Side Effects

Similar to other manners of using the drug, the side effects of snorting cocaine include:

  • Sensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Extreme happiness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling paranoid
  • Heart-related health risks
  • Sexual performance issues
  • Lung damage

Snorting cocaine requires the drug to travel from the blood vessels in the nose to the heart, which then sends the substance into the lungs to be oxygenated. The blood carrying the corrupted oxygen then returns to the heart where it is sent to the brain and other organs.

When cocaine reaches a person’s brain, the drug binds to the dopamine transporter and blocks the transporter’s usual task of removing the pleasure-inducing chemical known as dopamine from the brain’s synapse and dopamine receptors. As the blocking continues, dopamine builds up in the synapse and heightens the short-term positive effects that come from excess dopamine in the brain.

Snorting cocaine can lead to many long-term negative effects on a person’s nose and sense of smell. All uses of cocaine can be risky, but intranasal entry into the body carries its unique risks.

Cocaine’s Effect on the Nose

Symptoms may begin with a runny nose or feeling stuffy, similar to having a common cold. Other symptoms include nosebleeds, sinus infections and other common allergy symptoms. These symptoms are induced by snorting cocaine, but these early warning signs of damage may be ignored because they are so similar to other benign nasal conditions.

Cocaine Nose Collapse

Snorting cocaine repeatedly can cause the slow progression of tissue damage to the nose and septum. When the superficial layers die off, the septum begins to take on damage. Once the septum is perforated, the nose will collapse due to the lack of structural support. This damage cannot heal on its own and will require surgery to repair the function and cosmetic look of the nose. A “cocaine nose-job” is the medical process of repairing a deviated septum that was caused by regular intranasal use of the substance.

Cocaine and Sinus Problems

In addition to nose collapse, snorting cocaine can cause sinus problems. Blood vessels shrink due to the drug’s presence and the mucous membrane becomes irritated and inflamed. When inflammation develops, runny noses, sneezing and even sinus infections occur.

Nose bleeds are another effect of the mucous membrane being irritated by the intranasal use of the popular stimulant. The combination of regular nose bleeds and sinus problems are a sign that someone might be snorting cocaine.

How to Heal Your Nose After Snorting Cocaine

Consistent intranasal cocaine use can lead to irreparable damage to a person’s nose. If the inner part of a person’s nose and mucous membrane are significantly affected, and enough time has passed, natural healing along with surgical repair might not be possible. Many people who regularly snort cocaine have disfigured or collapsed noses due to damaged septum cartilage.

Some people who snort cocaine are careful to switch up nostrils and rinse out any excess powder afterward. Even with this precaution, the damage will occur eventually. Once the septum itself is damaged, surgery is the only way to repair the nose to an extent.

Other Ways to Abuse Cocaine

In addition to snorting cocaine, it can be rubbed on the gums or mixed with water to inject intravenously. Crack, a form of cocaine, is smoked and inhaled through the lungs. Some drug dealers cut cocaine with other drugs such as procaine (an anesthetic), amphetamines (another stimulant), or combine cocaine with heroin, known as a Speedball.

Key Points: Snorting Cocaine

Aside from potential, long-term damage to a person’s nose, using cocaine results in a chemical imbalance and a high likelihood of addiction. Keep the following points in mind when considering snorting cocaine:

  • People misuse cocaine by consuming the substance orally, intranasally, intravenously and through inhalation
  • Snorting cocaine is a popular method of cocaine misuse because it requires no drug paraphernalia and it can be done anywhere with a flat surface
  • Initial signs of damage caused by snorting cocaine can resemble the symptoms of a common cold: a runny nose and feeling stuffy
  • Over time the damage snorting cocaine causes irreparable damage inside a person’s nose
  • Beyond snorting cocaine, there are other ways that people abuse cocaine, including mixing cocaine with heroin

Cocaine is a dangerous drug. In 2017 there were approximately 14,000 cocaine overdose deaths. If you or a loved one live with a cocaine addiction, reach out to the Recovery Village. Representatives are ready to assist you or a loved one with determining what treatment options will work best for you. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How is cocaine used?” May 2016. Accessed April 29, 2019.

SAMHSA. “Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.” September 7, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction.” January 2007. Accessed April 29, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How does cocaine produce its effects?” May 2016. Accessed April 29, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?” May 2016. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Molteni, M., Saibene, A.M., Luciano, K., Maccari, A. “Snorting the clivus away: an extreme case of cocaine induced midline destructive lesion.” BMJ Case Reports, October 20, 2016. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Millard, D.R., Mejia, F.A. “Reconstruction of the nose damaged by cocaine.” Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, February 2001. Accessed April 29, 2010.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is cocaine?” May 2016. Accessed April 29, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.” January 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019. 

Snorting Cocaine
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