What Is Snorting Cocaine?

Cocaine is a stimulant originally harvested from the Coca plant in countries like Peru and Bolivia. It can be ingested in many ways, but the most common is snorting a powdered form. Injection and smoking Crack are also common, but their more invasive and involved nature leads to snorting being more popular. Small amounts of Cocaine are called “bumps”, which are commonly snorted off of keys or long finger nails. Larger amounts of Cocaine are usually arranged into straight lines to be snorted, usually through a straw shaped implement, often a rolled up bill. These doses are usually referred to as “lines” or “rails.”

Understanding Cocaine

Cocaine came into medical use when doctors discovered its anesthetic properties in an era with few other forms of anesthesia. It has since been phased out in favor of more effective and less dangerous drugs. Cocaine paved the way for anesthetic research and use, leading to many drugs derived from Cocaine like Lidocaine, Ropivacaine, and more. With very few current practical uses in modern medicine, Cocaine became an extremely popular drug. Illegal use hit stratospheric heights in the 1980s and 1990s alongside Crack Cocaine, but has since decreased. A national survey by the Delphi Health Group found that in 2017 5.9 million people admitted to having used Cocaine within a year of the survey. Adults from 18 to 25 represent the largest group of Cocaine users in the United States.

Why Do People Snort Cocaine?

Snorting Cocaine is not the fastest way to absorb it and feel the high. Though it’s not as fast as smoking or injecting, the drug’s effects can be felt for longer when it’s snorted. In order for the Cocaine to take hold, it must enter the bloodstream and flow to your brain. As you inhale the Cocaine, it coats the soft tissues in the nose and gets absorbed into the blood stream. To make it to the brain, the Cocaine flows in the blood it’s been absorbed into, first traveling to the lungs. The lungs incorporate oxygen into the blood and send it to the heart to be pumped to the brain and the rest of the body.

Once in the brain, Cocaine binds to certain receptors and guarantees that dopamine (the feel-good chemical) isn’t being removed as it normally would be. The body naturally creates dopamine when you engage in activities it enjoys like getting exercise, eating food, and having sex. The end stages of your body’s use of dopamine include specialized proteins which remove it from your brain’s receptors in order to recycle it. Using Cocaine essentially blocks those recycling proteins from accessing the dopamine, causing its effects to continue. This interaction creates the “euphoric” effect Cocaine exhibits upon use. The way the body processes Cocaine may seem complicated, but it only takes minutes to fully absorb the drug and feel its effects.

Step 1


Snorting Cocaine in its powdered form and coating the upper nasal cavity.

Step 2


Once coated, the sensitive mucous membranes in the nose will absorb the Cocaine into the blood stream.

Step 3

The Brain

Cocaine binds to neural receptors increasing dopamine production and reducing the body’s ability to recycle excess dopamine.

The Nose’s Importance

The nose is a complex and significant part of our body. It’s home to 400 different types of receptors responsible for distinguishing smells, and humans can tell the difference between 1 trillion different scents. The nose also helps us taste food and, to some extent, it filters the air we breathe. As air comes in through the nostrils, it flows past small hairs and mucus membranes which act together to catch and lock down particles like dust and dirt that don’t belong in the lungs.

Dangers Of Snorting Cocaine

Snorting Cocaine can lead to a long list of adverse health effects.

First Signs Of Damage

Though they can all lead to overdose, each different method of ingesting Cocaine carries its own set of risks. Snorting, in particular, affects the tissues in the nose directly. If Cocaine use becomes regular, soft tissue damage will progressively worsen. An early symptom is a runny nose, indicative of sinus infection, which can be a result fo the drug itself, or dirty environments and tools used when snorting Cocaine.

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Serious Reactions

While unpleasant, a sinus infection poses no serious threat, but when snorting Cocaine more regularly, the nose will not have time to heal. Chronic irritation leads to serious issues on its own, but Cocaine is also known for its ability to greatly reduce blood flow to an affected area. To heal an infection or irritation, the body needs to circulate blood to the area, but if the Cocaine is restricting access to the damaged tissues, they will eventually die.

Life Changing Repercussions

The soft tissues in the upper nose and palate will suffer first, causing holes to appear throughout the nasal cavity, which will cause further issues. A frequently cited effect of Cocaine abuse is the eroding of the septum (tissue separating your nostrils), which causes the ridge of the nose to buckle. This damage is known as the saddle nose deformity and it means that soft tissue and now cartilage are being destroyed. As issues in the nose worsen, they can often spread to nearby organs. In cases of severe abuse, the untreated sinus infections spread to the eyes, which can permanently damage vision, cause infection of the brain and spine, and even result in hearing loss. The head groups a number of important organs together, and regularly snorting Cocaine can cause issues that spread from the nose to all other parts of the head.

Help Is Available

Are you or a loved one suffering from an addiction to Cocaine? Contact a treatment provider today.