Snorting is the practice of sniffing a powdered substance through the nose. Cocaine, amphetamines, crystal meth, and heroin are most commonly abused in this way. Some people may also crush and snort prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, in order to bypass a time-release mechanism and get a more rapid and intense high.
Absorption into the Bloodstream
Regardless of the method through which a drug is administered, the substance must be absorbed into the bloodstream before it can reach the brain and produce its effects. Snorting a drug requires the substance to be absorbed through the nasal membrane and into the surrounding blood vessels. Those blood vessels then carry the drug to the heart, where it can be carried throughout the entire body, including all major organs as well as the brain. The drug must then pass through the blood-brain barrier—a highly selective and protective lining of endothelial cells that separates the blood from the brain—before it can interact with receptors in the brain and elicit its effects.
Since snorting drugs allows them to enter the bloodstream fairly quickly, they can affect the brain in a relatively short amount of time. This can increase the abuse potential of a drug, because the “high” produced by the substance occurs almost immediately after the drug is administered. The high also tends to be more intense when a drug, such as cocaine, is snorted.
Physical Effects: Substance abuse can have devastating effects on physical health. Some of these effects depend upon the method of administration. Snorting drugs introduces the powdered substance into the nasal passages, which can negatively impact the respiratory system. Long-term intranasal drug use can lead to chronic nosebleeds and runny nose, as well as a loss of the sense of smell, according to NIDA. Some of these consequences may be reversible once the drug use is stopped, but over time, repeated intranasal drug use can lead to perforation of the nasal septum, which can result in breathing difficulties. Full recovery from the physical effects of snorting drugs may not always be possible.