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Can You Snort Heroin? Side Effects, Dangers & Drug Abuse

Heroin use is typically depicted in media in the injected form using a syringe, but it can also be smoked or snorted. Continue to read more about the dangers and side effects, and if can you snort heroin.

By We Level Up | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: January 9, 2023

Can You Snort Heroin?

The most well-known method of using heroin is by injection. However, most heroin users do not start injecting the drug right away. Many times, people using heroin will either snort or smoke the substance first.

Heroin is sold as a powder, and the powder comes in a variety of hues and tones. It is all too common for people to mix together white cocaine and white heroin, raising the danger of a lethal overdose.

What Happens When You Snort Heroin?

Heroin is snorted up the nose through a rolled-up dollar bill. It takes approximately five to ten minutes to feel the effects of snorting heroin, The most common type of heroin for snorting is white powder heroin. This type of heroin is easily absorbed in the nose because it dissolves well in water, so it does not need to be chopped up or ground. Another type of heroin is black tar heroin. It is a solid form of heroin that can be sticky or hard as a rock. Can you snort black tar heroin? Can you snort heroin? Yes, a user can also snort black tar heroin, but it is not as easily absorbed. 

Snorting is commonly perceived as safer because of the stigma attached to intravenous drug abuse. However, there are several dangerous health risks associated with snorting heroin. Snorting heroin can lead to dependence and addiction, damage your respiratory system, and cause infections, Dependence may cause you to progress from snorting to intravenous drug use to achieve a more intense high.

Snorting powdered heroin has a slower rate of absorption than injecting them, so it will take a few minutes for someone to start to feel a rush. The effects of snorting can last anywhere between four and five hours. But what does a heroin high feel like? A heroin high feels like a rush of euphoria, happiness, and pleasure. After the last use of heroin, heroin detox withdrawal symptoms will start to kick in for those who are physically dependent or addicted.

Can you snort heroin? Medically, no. People who snort heroin face a striking set of risks in addition to the typical set of side effects and complications of drug addiction. 
Can you snort heroin? Medically, no. People who snort heroin face a striking set of risks in addition to the typical set of side effects and complications of drug addiction. 

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Heroin Drug Abuse Statistics

In 2020, heroin-involved overdose death rates decreased by nearly 7% 2019 to 2020. However, more than 13,000 people died from a drug overdose involving heroin in the United States, a rate of more than four deaths for every 100,000 Americans. The number of heroin-involved overdose deaths was nearly seven times higher in 2020 than in 1999. Almost 20% of all opioid deaths involved heroin.


626,000

Roughly 626,000 Americans had a heroin addiction in 2016.

Source: NIDA

60%

When someone uses heroin, they have a 50 to 60 percent chance of developing an addiction.

Source: NIDA

13,000

More than 13,000 people died from a drug overdose involving heroin in the United States.

Source: NIDA


Heroin Drug Facts

Heroin

Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.


How do people use heroin?

People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speedballing.


What are the effects of heroin?

Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.

Short-Term Effects

People who use heroin report feeling a “rush” (a surge of pleasure or euphoria). However, there are other common effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Nausea and vomiting

Long-Term Effects

People who use heroin over the long term may develop the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Liver and kidney disease

Heroin Fast Facts Made Publicly Available by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) for Substance Use Disorder Awareness

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Signs of Snorting Heroin

How do you know if someone is snorting heroin? Sadly, it can be a lot harder to find out early on if your loved one is snorting heroin. They will likely keep less drug paraphernalia around and they will exhibit fewer of the most common signs of heroin use (scarring, bruising, collapsed veins, etc). However, this does not mean that you cannot detect heroin abuse. If you want to know if a loved one is snorting heroin, it’s best to focus on behavioral changes. Typically, heroin abusers will be more secretive, reclusive, and irritable. They may also have difficulty concentrating, staying awake, or having coherent conversations.

Paraphernalia Associated With Snorting Heroin

  • Rolled-up paper
  • Rolled-up bills
  • Straws or other small tubes
  • Tiny spoons (for removing powdered heroin from a bag and snorting directly)
  • Small plastic bags with residual powder

One sign that someone is snorting heroin is redness in the face or raw nostrils. Other telltale signs of snorting heroin include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Watery eyes
  • Small pupil size
  • Drastic mood swings

The person may also use eye drops to clear red, irritated eyes caused by heroin use.

Effects of Snorting Heroin

Because heroin is a street drug, you can never trust that it’s entirely pure. Although it’s made from morphine, a natural substance, it often contains additives and traces of other drugs like fentanyl. These can be harmful whether you snort, smoke, or inject heroin. Snorting heroin can cause damage to the nasal passages and respiratory system. Long-term use can cause several serious health complications.

Health problems associated with snorting include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Nasal abscesses 
  • Nasal septum perforation (holes in cartilage of nasal cavity)
  • Congestion
  • Lung infections

Viral Infections. Snorting also increases the risk of viral infections. Although the risk is much higher when injecting, infections can be spread through snorting when sharing contaminated paraphernalia.  

Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C attacks the liver, resulting in nausea, fatigue, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin). Many people don’t notice symptoms of hepatitis C until there is severe liver damage.

Heroin Overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [1], there were about five times more heroin overdoses in 2018 than in 2010. 

The following increases the risk of heroin overdose:

  • Taking too much heroin, especially if you have a low tolerance
  • Using heroin that is laced with other drugs, such as fentanyl
  • Combining heroin with other drugs

Signs of heroin overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Respiratory failure (stopped breathing)
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
Can you snort heroin? it is hazardous. After some time, a heroin user’s sense of smell and taste becomes numb and may disappear.
Can you snort heroine? Do people snort heroin? It is hazardous. After some time, a heroin user’s sense of smell and taste becomes numb and may disappear.

Damaging Effects of Snorting Heroin 

Heroin is an opioid drug that’s highly potent and addictive. Once heroin gets into the brain, it converts into morphine, where it then binds to opioid receptors and creates the feeling of euphoria or the “high,” due to the release of dopamine. Heroin also slows the functions of the central nervous system (CNS), including heart rate and breathing.

Unfortunately, some people think that snorting heroin is safer because it doesn’t require the use of needles or any other paraphernalia. While it does eliminate the risk of infected needles and damage from needle use, it doesn’t remove any of the risks of the heroin itself.

Can you snort heroin? Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked. All three methods can lead to addiction and other severe health problems.
Can you snort heroin? Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked. All three methods can lead to addiction and other severe health problems.

Changes in the Brain, Mental Health

Snorting heroin affects every part of the body – including the brain. Heroin use can reduce the amount of white matter in the brain, affecting decision-making abilities. Snorting heroin can lead to problems with impulse control and even mental health. 

People who get addicted to heroin may develop anxiety, depression, antisocial personality disorder, or other mental health conditions. And, addiction combined with these brain changes can make individuals who are addicted to heroin highly susceptible to relapse even after getting sober.

Hormonal Changes

In the process of altering brain chemistry and other organs in the body, heroin can also impact one’s hormones. Women may experience irregular menstrual cycles. Men may experience reduced sexual function. And, both sexes may experience low sex drive as a result of long-term heroin insufflation.

Damage to the Nose

Heroin insufflation can cause long-term damage to the nose. People may experience nasal irritation, chronic runny nose, loss of smell, nose bleeds, or problems swallowing. More severe nose-related health issues can include the development of a hole in the cartilage that separates the nostrils or a deviated septum.

Irritation and damage to the nasal passages can do more than affect a person’s nose. These issues can impact their breathing and sense of smell. They can also result in a lower immune system and greater susceptibility to infection.

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Can You Snort Heroin?The Dangers of Snorting Heroin

One of the most dangerous side effects of snorting heroin is the way it can slow down a user’s breathing, which can in turn decrease the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain. Heroin overdoses can result in respiratory arrest and even death.

In 2019, more than 14,000 people died from a drug overdose involving heroin in the United States, a rate of more than four deaths for every 100,000 Americans. The number of heroin-involved overdose deaths was more than seven times higher in 2019 than in 1999. Nearly a third of all opioid deaths involved heroin.

Sadly, many people misuse and become addicted to prescription opioids like OxyContin and eventually transition to heroin due to cost and accessibility. For example, in a survey of people in opioid addiction treatment, 94% of respondents said they started using heroin because it was cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.

Why Do People Snort Heroin?

The availability of pure heroin is becoming more common and creating a shift to snorting heroin, especially for young users. There is also a misconception that snorting heroin instead of injecting it will not lead to addiction. Most street heroin is cut with other substances like cocaine or other opiates. When heroin is combined with crack cocaine, this method of use is known as drug speedballing.

Additional ingredients that may include non-intoxicating substances like sugar or starch are added to batches of heroin. These may result in blockages of blood vessels and enduring problems with the vital organs. Additives can alter the taste, smell, or high associated with heroin. The more adulterants heroin has, the lower the purity. There is the potential that heroin can be cut with toxic substances which can lead to death or irreversible health damage.

Can you snort heroin? Many users do. But unfortunately, most people who take heroin will become addicted within 12 weeks of consistent use.
Can you snort heroin? Many users do. But unfortunately, most people who take heroin will become addicted within 12 weeks of consistent use.

Risks of Snorting Heroin

Heroin isn’t a commercially produced pharmaceutical drug, but rather people must buy one on the street. There’s never any guarantee that the substance someone is snorting is just heroin. Additives are commonly used as fillers and even other drugs that can further increase the risk of adverse effects.

Although snorting heroin may reduce some health risks associated with injecting heroin (i.e. collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood and heart valves), repeatedly snorting heroin carries its own risks, such as damage to the mucosal tissues in the nose as well as perforating the nasal septum—the tissue that separates the nasal passages.

Snorting heroin may be somewhat less risky than injecting; however, heroin, however, is about half as potent when snorted as compared to when it is injected.10 It’s a noticeable difference and those who snort or smoke heroin risk switching to injecting as their drug use progresses.

Snorting Heroin Overdose

Some heroin users falsely believe that snorting this drug after a period of abstinence is safe. However, a study published in the journal Forensic Science International suggested that reduced or irregular heroin use can decrease tolerance to the drug and increase the risk of overdose.

Heroin overdose happens when the drug slows breathing and heart rate to critical levels. People who overdose on heroin usually experience disorientation or a weak pulse. They may fall into a coma. Overdosing on heroin can cause users to pass out, stop breathing or die.

Some people snort heroin and cocaine together, a combination known as a speedball. Speedball increases the potency of both drugs and can result in confusion, nausea, heart attack, overdose, or death.

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Can you snort heroin? If you or a loved one has the signs and symptoms of snorting. It is time to seek help. Heroin has specific actions in the brain and body that can cause people to become addicted over time.
Can you snort heroin? If you or a loved one has the signs and symptoms of snorting. It is time to seek help. Heroin has specific actions in the brain and body that can cause people to become addicted over time.

Heroin Addiction Treatment Center

Heroin addiction is a chronic disease and should be treated the same as other chronic diseases. Like those, it should constantly be monitored and managed. Heroin is a type of opioid. Opioid addiction treatment is different for each individual. The main purpose of opioid addiction treatment is to help the person stop using the drug. Opioid addiction treatment also can help the person avoid using it again in the future.

The body does go through specific symptom stages known as the opioid withdrawal timeline. The opioid withdrawal timeline varies from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of opioid that was used, how long it was used, and any other substances that may have been used in conjunction with opioids as well. Medically managed withdrawal opioid detox ensures the individual remains safe and stays as comfortable as possible.

Detox Treatment

The first step in treatment is medical detox. It will help you navigate the complicated withdrawal process, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to heroin abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide the necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Psychotherapy

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of depression, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorders and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis programs treat both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Now that we’ve answered the question ”can you snort heroin?”, hopefully, this will give you an idea of what drugs you’re dealing with. If you or your loved one is suffering from Opioid withdrawal symptoms and addictions, and at some point experienced opioid overdose symptoms, indeed, help is just a phone call away. Professional opioid addiction treatment is necessary for fast and effective recovery. Contact us today at We Level Up treatment facility. We provide the utmost care with doctors and medical staff available 24/7 for life-changing and lasting recovery. We offer an enhanced opportunity to return to a fulfilling and productive life.

Can you snort heroin? Avoid. Mental health disorders that result from heroin abuse may also not be reversible. The good news is that addiction to heroin can be treated with proper care.
Can you snort heroin? Avoid. Mental health disorders that result from heroin abuse may also not be reversible. The good news is that addiction to heroin can be treated with proper care.

Top 5 Can You Snort Heroin? Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can you snort heroin? and who is at the highest risk for heroin addiction?

    The people at higher risk of heroin abuse are younger adults (18-25 years old), people with mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder), and individuals with a history of alcohol or substance abuse.

  2. How does heroin pass through the body, and can you snort heroin?

    In the body, heroin is rapidly metabolized to 6-acetyl morphine (6-AM) and morphine by esterase enzymes. Morphine is further glucuronidated to morphine-6-glucuronide (active) and morphine-3-glucuronide (inactive). For decades, morphine was considered to be the metabolite responsible for heroin’s pharmacological effects.

  3. What are the warning signs that someone is addicted to heroin? Can you snort heroin?

    The three main signs that someone is snorting heroin are loss of energy or motivation. Neglecting one’s appearance. Spending excessive amounts of money on the substance

  4. Why is there an increase in heroin use? Can you snort heroin, or inject it?

    One main factor that contributes to the popularity of a drug is availability. One key to prevention is reducing exposure. If you know someone is snorting heroin, seek professional help immediately.

  5. What is the success rate of a heroin addict? Can you snort heroin, and why do people snort heroin?

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60% of recovering clients relapse back into addiction. For heroin users, the relapse rate is much higher: nearly 80%, regardless of the method of use.

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Search We Level Up Can You Snort Heroin? Detox & Mental Health Topics & Resources
Sources:

[1] Today’s Heroin Epidemic – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) In relation to the topic: Can You Snort Heroin?

[2] How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System? – We Level Up New Jersey Addiction Treatment Center In relation to the topic: Can You Snort Heroin?

[3] Huecker MR, Koutsothanasis GA, Abbasy MSU, et al. Heroin. [Updated 2022 Sep 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441876/ Tag: Can You Snort Heroin?

[4] Oelhaf RC, Azadfard M. Heroin Toxicity. [Updated 2022 May 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430736/ Tag: Can You Snort Heroin?

[5] Hosztafi S. A heroin addikció [Heroin addiction]. Acta Pharm Hung. 2011;81(4):173-83. Hungarian. PMID: 22329304. Tag: Can You Snort Heroin?

[6] Heroin DrugFacts – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) In relation to the topic: Can You Snort Heroin?

[7] Addiction and Substance Misuse Reports and Publications – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services In relation to the topic: Can You Snort Heroin?

[8] Azadfard M, Huecker MR, Leaming JM. Opioid Addiction. [Updated 2022 Sep 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448203/ Tag: Can You Snort Heroin?

[9] Dydyk AM, Jain NK, Gupta M. Opioid Use Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jun 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553166/ Tag: Can You Snort Heroin?

[10] Opioid addiction: MedlinePlus Genetics – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health In relation to the topic: Can You Snort Heroin?

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