Snorting Heroin: The Signs, Dangers & Side Effects

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Dangers of Snorting Heroin

Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive substance. Unfortunately, America has seen a rise in heroin use among different age groups, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2016, around 948,000 Americans used heroin in the last year. According to the Center for Disease Control, heroin-related overdose deaths have grown almost 5 times since 2010. The death rate from heroin overdose has grown by over 4%. Heroin is an opioid drug that is highly desirable because it is made from morphine which creates a powerful euphoric sensation and generates a profound feeling of relaxation, pleasure, and sleepiness.

If a person is wondering, can heroin be snorted, the simple answer is yes. With that being said, there are many different dangers associated with sniffing heroin. These risks include dry mouth, small pupils, discolored tongue, low blood pressure, constipation, lack of oxygen to the brain, lung problems, gateway to other drugs or alcohol, quickly becoming addiction rates, increased risk of infections or sinus issues, damaged mucus membranes in the nose, and nasal inflammation. The most serious risks associated with heroin overdose are shallow and slow breathing, coma, and death.

Snorting Vs. Smoking Vs. Injecting

There are many different ways a person who is addicted to heroin can get their fix. This includes snorting, smoking, and injecting. Snorting heroin involves breathing the powdered substance through the nose. Snorting heroin is done on a flat surface with powdered heroin, and a straw or rolled-up paper is used as the applicator to get the heroin into the nose. Smoking heroin involves heating the drug on aluminum foil or another material above a flame and inhaling the smoke produced through a glass tube or some sort of rolled-up object. Snorting and smoking heroin are appealing to people because there is less of a stigma attached to them. It is also generally believed that heroin insufflation is safer than other forms of getting the drug into the body. Injecting heroin involves the use of a needle to inject liquefied heroin into the bloodstream. There is an increased risk of serious long-term infections like HIV, Hepatitis C,  and Hepatitis B with injecting heroin. Injecting heroin comes with a lot more social stigma due to the media’s portrayal, and it is easier for the public to spot. Hiding heroin addiction is a lot more difficult when individuals have to pull out a needle as it leaves puncture wounds on their bodies.

Effects of Snorting Heroin

The effects of snorting heroin impact more than just the person who is snorting the heroin. Engaging in snorting heroin creates a ripple effect that impacts everyone the individual who is using the substance knows. Disorder and chaos are created by an individual’s addiction. When you have these states in the home, it can cause the family dynamics to be organized around the addicted individual. This often leaves the children feeling neglected. The spouse of an individual who is afflicted with addiction is impacted because of the potential financial implications and increased burden to care for the individual with the affliction. The individual’s place of employment is also impacted because they may have been expecting the individual to show up for work and they never do. The individual with the addiction to heroin may experience uncontrollable seeking behaviors leaving them to leave their place of employment without warning.

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Signs of Heroin Snorting

There are not as many signs that a person is snorting heroin as there would be for a person who is injecting the substance. Upon a physical examination, there are a few signs of heroin insufflation. These include loss of nasal cavity tissues, damaged mucus membranes, inflammation of the nasal cavity, sinus infections, and bleeding. However, no matter what way a person takes heroin, the effects are still the same. A person addicted to heroin will still experience the same euphoric sensation leading to potentially fatal negative consequences no matter which way the drug is taken into the body.


Heroin use causes long-term effects on the body. It changes the structure of the brain, which can create long-term neurological imbalances. Withdrawal can occur as quickly as a few hours after the last time a person took the drug. Symptoms to keep an eye out for that are associated with heroin withdrawal are restlessness, pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and experiencing a cold sensation. An individual will start to experience more intense withdrawal symptoms 24-48 hours after the last time the drug was taken. Unfortunately, some people will experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks or even months after the last dose of heroin was taken. It is not uncommon for individuals to relapse and experience uncontrollable drug-seeking behaviors.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Fortunately for individuals who struggle with it,  there is a treatment for heroin addiction. Heroin detox is an advantageous first step to recovering from the addiction when some form of treatment follows it. There are a variety of different effective treatment options for people who struggle with heroin abuse. Some treatment options are behavioral therapies and certain medications. Individuals who are addicted to heroin can receive behavioral therapies at both outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation clinics. A few behavioral therapies that are effective for individuals who are addicted to heroin are contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Contingency management involves a patient earning points for taking a negative drug test. These points can then be used to get items that encourage a healthy lifestyle. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that challenges an individual’s negative thought patterns about themself and their world to change unwanted behaviors. This change in negative thought patterns enables individuals to see themself in a more positive light and change their thought patterns associated with drug use.

Medications are another treatment option for individuals addicted to heroin that they can combine with behavioral therapies. Medications can be helpful in the detoxification stage to reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. Finally, successful long-term management tends to include detoxification followed by residential drug treatments.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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