Drugs can be abused in various different ways. Illicit substances can be swallowed, injected, smoked, snorted, or administered through several other methods. All of these methods eventually deliver the substance into the bloodstream, where it is carried to the brain, but the speed at which this occurs, as well as the amount of the drug that is able to reach the brain, varies between methods of intake.

Skip To Section:

Smoking and snorting are similar methods of administering a drug, but they differ in important ways that can impact the effectiveness of the substance, as well as the risks associated with the drug use.

You Might Also Be Interested In

Snorting Drugs

Snorting is the practice of inhaling a powdered substance through the nose. Cocaine, amphetamines, and heroin are most commonly abused in this way.

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 affect the brain or body. 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 to the entire body, including all major organs as well as the brain. The drug must then pass through the blood-brain barrier – a protective mass of capillaries that separates the blood from the brain – before it can affect the brain.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, because 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” caused by the substance occurs almost immediately after the drug is administered.

snorting drugs
Physical Effects

Illicit drugs use 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. Chronic drug use using this method can lead to chronic nosebleeds and runny nose, as well as a loss of the sense of smell, according to NIDA. It can also cause difficulty swallowing and a hoarse voice. Some of these effects may be reversible once the drug use is stopped, but over time, repeated damage to the nasal passages can lead to the creation of scar tissue as well as septal perforation. Full recovery from the physical effects of snorting drugs may not always be possible.


Swallowing Drugs

Many different drugs, both legitimate and illicit, can be swallowed. Most over-the-counter and prescription medications are administered this way, and many street drugs can also be swallowed.

Absorption into the Bloodstream

Drugs that are swallowed must overcome additional hurdles when reaching the brain. According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, drugs that are swallowed take longer to take effect than drugs that are snorted, because they must pass through the liver before being carried to the brain. When a substance is swallowed, it is absorbed through the lining of the digestive tract and then carried via blood vessels to the liver. The liver processes everything that is swallowed before it is carried through the rest of the body. The liver metabolizes the substance, which can destroy some of the drug before it affects the rest of the body.

Due to this process, swallowing a drug can have a less noticeable effect that other methods of administration, such as snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. After the drug goes through this processing, it enters the bloodstream and is pumped through the body and to the brain.

Physical Effects

Swallowing illicit drugs, particularly street drugs that were not designed to be swallowed safely, can have serious negative impacts on the digestive tract and liver. As discussed, when illicit substances are swallowed, they pass through the digestive tract before being absorbed into the bloodstream. Many substances cause a localized lack of blood flow to the digestive tract. Insufficient blood flow can lead to tissue death and eventual gangrene. Swallowing drugs also puts additional strain on the liver, because the drug is metabolized within the liver before entering the bloodstream to be carried to the brain. Chronic drug users can sometimes experience liver failure after years of substance use.

Click To Display Details
Our Brand Promise
If you successfully complete our 90-day inpatient treatment program, we guarantee you’ll stay clean and sober, or you can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.

Go To Extended Details Page

Contact Us About Our Availability

Do You Have Questions? | We Are More Than Happy to Provide Answers

Both snorting and swallowing drugs can have significant negative effects on physical and mental health. Snorting a substance may cause it to be more addictive than swallowing the same substance, but any illicit drug use can lead to a substance use disorder. Regular abuse of medications or street drugs requires medical intervention and behavioral therapy.