Can You Snort Heroin?

Heroin is a powerful opioid, and its use leads to staggering consequences. Sometimes after using it just once people become addicted. Along with a psychological addiction, a physical dependence to heroin also happens quickly. Drug dependence means that if you stop using a substance suddenly you’ll go through withdrawal.

Unfortunately, the highly addictive nature of heroin and other opioids has given rise to “the opioid epidemic.” This drug epidemic refers to the use of heroin, as well as prescription pain medicines, which has spiraled out of control in the U.S. Because of the prevalence of opioid use in this country, people have a lot of questions about the drug. For example, they wonder how heroin works, why it’s so addictive and how it’s used.  Heroin is used in three main ways. It’s injected, smoked and snorted (also called “sniffing heroin”).

Sniffing Heroin | Can You Snort Heroin?
Heroin is derived from the poppy plant. When it reaches the brain of the user, it converts back to morphine. Once that happens, it binds to receptors and activates them in a way that creates the effects the drug is known for. First, a flood of brain chemicals, including dopamine, is triggered. These chemicals cause the euphoric high that people seek when using heroin. Dopamine and other feel-good chemicals are released into the brain at an artificial level that can’t be achieved naturally. Following the high, heroin then causes the user to feel drowsy or sedated. It slows the functions of the central nervous system, including breathing and heart rate.

Heroin is incredibly addictive because of the way it affects the brain. The dopamine that’s released activates reward pathways in the brain, which contributes to a cycle of addiction. With heroin addiction, the desire to continue using is out of control and compulsive. A heroin user also quickly develops a tolerance, meaning they need larger doses to experience any effect. That tolerance contributes to physical dependence. If you’re dependent on heroin, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the drug suddenly.

The most common way to abuse heroin is to inject it. Intravenous drug use includes a needle, and the powder that heroin is sold as is then liquefied. Injecting drugs of any kind is especially dangerous due to the risk of infections and the transmission of bloodborne diseases. There’s also a stigma surrounding intravenous drug use and a sense of apprehension from people that leads them to want to use in other ways.

People often wonder, “can you snort heroin?” In addition to injecting the drug, there are two other ways to abuse heroin; it can be smoked, and it can be sniffed or snorted. Smoking heroin requires a pipe, and the drug is heated. The fumes are then inhaled. When someone smokes heroin, the fumes go from the lungs into the arteries and then to the brain. Snorting or inhaling heroin has become increasingly common since the 1990s. Sniffing heroin requires a powdered form of the drug that can be inhaled directly into the nose. A straw or a rolled paper may be used.

When someone sniffs heroin, the drug is absorbed by the blood vessels found throughout the nose. Once it is absorbed into those vessels, it travels through the bloodstream and then the brain. Sniffing heroin will result in a euphoric high in about five minutes for most people. While this may seem like a short onset time, the effects of heroin are felt much more quickly when it’s injected. The rapid onset time is one of the reasons that many heroin addicts often move on to intravenous drug use, even if they start by sniffing heroin.

Some of the reasons people snort heroin are touched on above, including the fact that there’s less of a stigma associated with snorting drugs as opposed to injecting them into a vein or muscle. There’s also less paraphernalia associated with snorting heroin. Someone who injects the drug will need a syringe, something to tie-off the vein where they’ll be injecting heroin, and (often) additional items like cotton balls. To smoke heroin, you need a pipe and a lighter, at a minimum. Snorting heroin requires none of these things, so it can be easier to use the drug this way.

The overdose risk is slightly lower when heroin is snorted, but it is still very high. In some instances, the risk of an overdose can be higher among people who snort heroin. Someone who snorts heroin is more likely to be an occasional user of the drug, meaning they have a lower tolerance or their tolerance goes down between uses. The lower the opioid tolerance, the higher the chance of an overdose.

Most heroin available in the U.S. is also full of impurities. These impurities can cause inflammation and damage to the tissues in the nasal cavity, which can lead to a hole in the septum as well. Snorting heroin can be particularly damaging to people with preexisting conditions such as asthma, and snorting heroin can lead to fatal asthma attacks.

There’s an unfortunate misconception that sniffing heroin is somehow less dangerous than intravenous use. It’s true that there aren’t the risks associated with dirty and shared needles, but the drug itself is just as dangerous no matter how it’s used. Regardless of if you snort it, inject it or smoke it, heroin is one of the most addictive drugs on the market. Heroin taken in any way can also cause physical damage to the organs and the brain and can lead to psychological issues. There isn’t a safe way to use heroin.

So, can you snort heroin? You can, and it’s one of the main ways the drug is abused, but it’s risky and often deadly. If you have a problem snorting heroin, or if someone you love does, we can help you at The Recovery Village. We specialize in customized treatment plans that will allow you to move toward a heroin- and drug-free life.

Snorting Heroin
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