Snorting Heroin: Signs, Effects, And Risks

Snorting heroin is a common way to take this dangerous opioid drug. Like other types of heroin use, snorting comes with many health risks and dangers. Addiction treatment is the best way to address drug abuse.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Heroin is an addictive opiate drug. Snorting heroin is one of the most common ways to use it. Most people think of injecting heroin, but the drug can also be snorted, smoked, or taken rectally.

Snorting or smoking heroin is not less dangerous than injecting it. Some people who snort heroin think that it is a safer method of drug use than injection.

Unfortunately, as tolerance grows and dependence increases, many people who snort the drug end up injecting heroin for more intense effects.

A person using heroin can overdose from snorting the drug. Snorting instead of injecting heroin does not make the drug any safer, and it does not prevent addiction.

Find out about other methods of heroin abuse.

How Is Heroin Snorted?

Heroin comes in many forms, including white powder, brown powder, and “black tar heroin” (a sticky, black or dark brown substance). Only heroin’s powdered forms can be snorted.

Snorting heroin is the simplest way to take the drug. It requires the least tools, and this is often why people snort heroin instead of smoking or injecting it. The effects of heroin can be felt within minutes when the drug is snorted.

To snort the drug, brown or white powder is usually poured on a smooth surface such as a mirror or a phone.

It is then cut into “lines”, similar to cocaine. A person may then snort heroin directly from the surface, or they might use a rolled-up bill or straw to snort it.

Paraphernalia Associated With Snorting Heroin

Snorting heroin is the simplest way to use the drug. It can be done without the use of any tools. However, people snorting the drug may use a couple of small tools.

If you are concerned that a loved one is snorting heroin, keep an eye out for these items:

  • 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

A person who snorts heroin could also be using it in other ways.

Keep an eye out for these items used to smoke and inject heroin also:

Short-Term And Long-Term Effects Of Snorting Heroin

Snorting heroin may come with many short-term and long-term side effects and health problems. Many people report a euphoric ‘high’.

These other short-term effects may also occur from snorting heroin:

  • dry mouth
  • itching and scratching
  • nausea and vomiting
  • clouded thinking
  • slowed heart rate
  • slowed/shallow breathing
  • runny nose
  • nosebleeds
  • clogged sinus
  • constipation

Long-term effects of snorting heroin may include:

  • lung problems
  • sleeping problems
  • tremors or seizures
  • damaged blood vessels in the nose
  • hole in septum
  • bacterial infections in the nose
  • fatal overdose

Other Methods Of Heroin Abuse

People who snort heroin may gradually transition to smoking and/or injecting it. These methods of taking the drug allow it to enter the bloodstream more directly. As tolerance increases, people often switch to smoking and injecting heroin.

Some signs of smoking and/or injecting heroin are:

  • heroin abscesses
  • infectious diseases like HIV or hepatitis
  • damaged or collapsed veins
  • burns on the mouth and/or fingers
  • darkened veins (“track marks”)

Opioid overdose becomes more common when people inject heroin. The risk of overdose increases because the person’s tolerance for heroin is higher, meaning they need to take larger doses to feel the effects.

Treatment Options For Heroin Addiction

Drug addiction treatment may be necessary to treat heroin abuse. Visiting an accredited detox and treatment center is often the first step towards recovery.

Usually, treatment begins with detox, where a person will be monitored while they go through withdrawal symptoms. Next, inpatient treatment helps a person to get back on their feet and learn skills for fighting addiction.

Finally, a person will begin to return to their daily life while going to outpatient treatment. These are all important steps in the process of recovering from addiction.

Learn about heroin addiction treatment programs.

Find Heroin Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Bedrock Recovery Center can help you or your loved ones recover from substance use disorders. We offer treatment programs tailored to each patient.

Call our helpline today to talk to someone about starting the journey to recovery.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin Overdose Data
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  4. The U.S. Department of Justice — Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts
  5. The U.S. Department of Justice –– Heroin Fast Facts

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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