Why do people snort drugs? - Garden State Treatment Center

When you think of people using drugs, you probably think of smoking them, swallowing pills or injecting them. However, drugs can also be snorted. One of the most commonly snorted drugs is cocaine, and an estimated 4.8 million people used cocaine in 2021, according to the NIH. People snort drugs for a variety of reasons, including for a faster high and because it can be less stigmatizing and better concealed. Let’s take a look at why people snort drugs and some of the common effects.

The Science of Snorting Drugs

A common way people use drugs is through snorting, also known as nasal insufflation. When an individual snorts a drug, whether it’s already in powder form or was a pill and they crushed it into a powder, it enters the body through the nose and goes into the bloodstream through the nasal membrane. From the bloodstream, the drug enters the brain, and the effects are felt. This bypasses the stomach and liver and can produce a faster and more intense high than other methods.

It’s important to understand that while snorting a drug can produce a faster and more intense high, it’s not good for the body. Snorting drugs can cause damage to the nasal tissues in the nasal cavity, which can cause small blood vessels in the nose to become irritated and rupture, and even result in a perforated nasal septum, which is the center cartilage between the nostrils in the nose. When the membranes and septum of the nose become damaged, it can result in chronic sinus infections, difficulty breathing, and an increase in nasal discharge. Individuals may even experience frequent bacterial infections in their noses.

snort drugs

Reasons for Snorting Drugs

People choose to snort drugs for a variety of reasons. The most common are:

  • Able to get high faster
  • Appearance of being safer because they’re less likely to acquire a blood-borne pathogen or damage their lungs
  • Being peer pressured to snort or experiencing social pressure to snort drugs
  • Easier to hide the use of the drug and their dependence on it
  • Easier to snort drugs than take them via other methods
  • To get a more intense high

Types of Drugs Commonly Snorted

People most often snort cocaine, but many types of drugs can be snorted, including stimulants, opioids, benzodiazepines and hallucinogens.


Stimulants are known for making people feel like they have increased energy and are more alert. People on stimulants may clean, exercise or do other activities with an increased vigor. Cocaine and amphetamines are stimulants and fall into this category.


Opioids are primarily used as painkillers, but they can also produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria, which are side effects of the medication. Common opioids that are snorted include heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone.


Benzodiazepines are most commonly used to treat mental health disorders as well as seizures. They can even be prescribed to help with the withdrawal symptoms of other types of drugs. Common benzodiazepines that are inhaled include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan.


Hallucinogens cause people to see or hear things that are not actually there, but they are also sometimes used to relieve pain. These drugs include LSD, ketamine and PCP, which is usually referred to as angel dust.

Dangers and Risks of Snorting Drugs

If you’re tempted to start snorting drugs, you may be interested in their adverse effects. Snorting drugs just like ingestion through any other way can still lead to unwanted side effects and illnesses.

Damage to the Nasal Passages and Sinuses

Snorting drugs can lead to severe damage of the nasal passages and the sinuses. It’s important to understand that the membranes inside the nose and sinuses are extremely sensitive. Repeated exposure to illicit substances can cause nosebleeds, a constantly runny nose, sneezing, congestion, loss of smell and a perforated nasal septum, which can result in difficulty breathing.

Increased Risk of Infection and Disease

Snorting drugs can lead to an increase in bacteria infections, abscesses and cellulitis. It can cause chronic sinus infections and increase your risk of acquiring fungal infections. It also increases the risk of developing infective endocarditis, which is an infection in the heart valves. This can occur when bacteria from the nose get into the bloodstream and travel to the heart. If the drug is shared between different people, it can lead to the transmission of infections such as Hepatitis C.

Overdose and Other Medical Complications

Snorting drugs can increase your risk of experiencing an overdose. This is due to the rapid onset of the effects of the drug. Depending on the type of drug you snort, you could also experience respiratory depression, problems with your circulatory system or heart, damage to your internal organs and even seizures.

Long-Term Physical and Psychological Effects

Long-term drug abuse can lead to negative physical and psychological effects, including loss of coordination, changes in your blood pressure and heart rate, heart disease, strokes, an increased risk of cancer, digestive or intestinal problems, loss of smell and permanent damage to the nose and sinuses. Long-term drug use is also known to create long-term cognitive and behavioral changes and exasperate existing mental health conditions.

Treatment for Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

If you snort drugs or use illicit drugs in any other manner, it’s important to get reliable, caring treatment so that you can overcome your substance use disorder. At Garden State Treatment Center in New Jersey, we offer a large variety of programs and therapy to help you recover.

Detoxification and Withdrawal

When you first enter treatment, you’ll start your program with detox. This means that you’ll stop using your drug of choice and let the substance dissipate from your body via natural means. Since this often causes withdrawal symptoms, you’ll be monitored by our professional and caring medical staff.

Medications for Addiction Treatment

Depending on the substance on which you are dependent, you may be given some medications to take in lieu of your preferred drug. Some common medications include:

  • Methadone – Helps treat opioid withdrawal symptoms by tricking the brain into thinking it is still receiving opioids. However, it does not produce any sort of high or euphoric feelings.
  • Buprenorphine – This medication helps reduce the severity of your cravings and your symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
  • Naltrexone – reduces cravings and helps block the effects of opioids. This medication shouldn’t be confused with Naloxone, which is used to treat opioid overdoses.

Behavioral Therapies

While you detox and afterward, you’ll be given various types of therapy, including individual addiction counseling, group therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. We also offer adventure therapy, which can help you heal in nature and get you physically active. If you have a partner or a loved one, we also offer couples therapy.

Support Groups and Aftercare Programs

Once you complete your initial drug rehabilitation program, you’ll need ongoing care in order to prevent relapsing. These are called aftercare or alumni programs, and they can include additional therapy and meetings. Some people even choose to enter community step-based programs, like Narcotics Anonymous. Participating in an aftercare program can give you additional tools, resources and reasons to continue your path of sobriety. You’ll even gain access to members who can help you if you feel triggered or tempted to fall back into your substance use disorder. Remember, recovery from an addiction should be treated like any other chronic illness. You’ll need to get it under control and then take steps to maintain your progress.


If you snort drugs, like cocaine, heroin or PCP, you may feel like it’s safer because you’re not injecting yourself with drugs or sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia. You may even think that you can control your usage by precisely measuring out each dose before you snort it. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. Snorting is not safer than other methods of ingesting drugs, and you can still become physically and mentally dependent on the substance. Thankfully, there are programs available that can help you stop using your drug of choice, heal from the addiction and maintain long-term sobriety.

If you’re ready to stop using drugs and start on the path of sobriety, give our caring and understanding staff at Garden State Treatment Center a call today!


  • What does it mean to snort drugs?
  • Why do people snort drugs?
  • What are the risks associated with snorting drugs?
  • Which drugs are commonly snorted?
  • How can snorting drugs affect the brain?
  • Is snorting drugs more addictive than other methods of administration?
  • Can snorting drugs cause an overdose?
  • What should I do if someone I know is snorting drugs?
  • How can I help someone who is addicted to snorting drugs?
  • Where can I find more information about the dangers of snorting drugs and treatment options?

Published on: 2023-04-05
Updated on: 2024-03-25