Snorting Heroin: Side Effects and Dangers
Using heroin is not only dangerous to your health, but also to the welfare of others. The financial and social costs of heroin use are vast. Although snorting heroin may be perceived as less dangerous than injection (intravenous or IV) use, the health risks and potential for addiction are significant.
Heroin is a powerfully addictive and illicit drug in the opioid family. It is a chemical modification of morphine, which derives from the opium poppy plant, and is converted back to morphine once it’s in the brain, where it binds to opioid receptors to cause its effects. People commonly inject, snort, or smoke heroin. Each of these methods induces an intense high shortly after administration. Heroin causes users to experience euphoria, drowsiness, and altered pain perception, but it also can cause profound respiratory depression, coma, and death.
Heroin Use in Numbers
In 2011, more than 4 million people in the United States reported at least one instance of heroin use in their lifetime. Even more startling, of those who use heroin, it is estimated that as many as 23% of those individuals eventually develop a heroin addiction. Heroin use is on the rise. In recent years, the increase in use has been accompanied by a jump in the numbers of heroin overdoses. Heroin-related deaths have more than tripled from 2002 to 2013 and increased by nearly 40% from 2012 to 2013. Furthermore, about 90% of heroin users abuse other drugs as well, compounding the risk of overdose.
Heroin use is a societal issue and epidemic affecting millions of people, regardless of age, race, or gender. Heroin addiction used to be more limited to urban populations, but in recent years it has permeated to the suburbs and rural settings as well. This growth may largely be due to the increase in the number of individuals addicted to opioid painkillers. As painkillers are more expensive than heroin and are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, many opioid addicted people transition to heroin use.
Why Heroin Is Snorted
Snorting involves either inhaling powdered heroin or heroin dissolved in small amounts of liquid through the nose. The drug then enters the bloodstream through the nasal tissues. It’s usually snorted by using a straw or rolled up paper. Those who snort heroin might not feel the full initial euphoric “rush” that intravenous users do, but the ensuing effects are largely indistinguishable.
It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to feel the effects of heroin when snorted, as opposed to injecting, which can produce effects as quickly as seconds after administration. People who have allergies or congested sinuses might need more time before they feel the effects.
Those who snort also carry the risk of asthma attacks, nosebleeds, breathing problems, and damage and irritation to the nasal passages, sinuses, and cartilage of the nose. People who share straws also run the risk of contracting various viral and bacterial infections from other users.
Snorting Vs. Shooting Heroin
According to BBC Health, tolerance to heroin can happen rather quickly due to its addictive properties. This means that the body needs more and more of the drug to get high. Heroin’s addictive properties are augmented by the fact that it’s a short-acting drug, meaning the effects don’t last long. Once the high disappears, many users use heroin again and again in a binge pattern. As the relatively more expensive powdered forms of heroin may be preferentially sought out by those who abuse it, snorting heroin may be an especially expensive method of use.
Research suggests that snorting heroin has become more popular as an alternative to IV use. This shift might be due to the increase in purity of heroin: Snorting the opioid is typically less efficient than injecting, but the higher purity allows a user to get high more easily with this mode of administration. This change could possibly be the reason more teenagers and young adults initiate heroin use than in the past.
Other Ways Heroin Is Used
Heroin can be administered into the body through various delivery methods. These methods include:
- Injection under the skin (subcutaneous administration).
- Injection into a muscle (intramuscular or IM).
- Injection into a vein (intravenous or IV).
- Inserting heroin into the rectum (“stuffing”).
Effects of Snorting Heroin
Heroin use affects each person differently. A person’s reaction to snorting heroin depends on their overall physical health, the purity of the drug, and how much and how frequently they use the drug.
According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, common side effects of heroin include itchiness, alternating wakefulness and alertness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, pinpoint pupils, sleep problems, breathing problems, and changes in sex drive. People who go on heroin binges for days may forget to eat and therefore suffer from malnutrition and dehydration. Women may experience menstrual irregularities or have their periods stop altogether. Using too much heroin at a time, especially when combined with other drugs, can result in death.
Withdrawal symptoms tend to be uncomfortable and unpleasant, and they’re a driving factor behind many heroin relapses. People who reduce their usage of heroin or stop using it altogether might start experiencing withdrawal symptoms in as little as six to 12 hours after the last administration. The symptoms tend to reach a peak one to three days after the last dose, and they tend to dissipate after five to seven days.
Although withdrawal is rarely fatal, it can cause serious health problems to those who have HIV/AIDS or who are pregnant. Typical withdrawal symptoms include:
- Dissatisfied or unpleasant mood (dysphoria).
- Goose bumps.
- Dilated pupils.
- Muscle aches.
- Increased eye watering.
- Runny nose.
- Increased sensitivity to pain.
- Spontaneous ejaculation in males.
Getting Heroin Treatment Help
Heroin addiction treatment can involve the following elements:
- Intake evaluation. Before beginning treatment, a therapist will assess the nature of the addiction and evaluate for any co-occurring mental health disorders that might influence the addiction. A medical professional will also evaluate the individual’s current medications and overall health.
- Detoxification. Although not typically life-threatening, heroin withdrawal can still present with uncomfortable symptoms. An addiction treatment facility will provide the individual with comfort and medical care while detoxing from heroin.
- Individual therapy. The person will meet one-on-one with a therapist to better understand how their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and environment influence his or her heroin addiction. It’s important that a heroin recovery center provides the individual with adequate mental health support because addiction often co-occurs with mental health disorders.
- Group counseling. A mental health professional will facilitate a group counseling session focused on improving social skills and coping strategies.
- Medical maintenance. There are a few different types of medications used to treat heroin addiction in combination with behavioral therapies. They can help to curb cravings and prevent relapse.
- Family involvement. Family counseling is offered at many different heroin addiction treatment centers, and it can help to improve familial relationships and communication.
Quality heroin recovery centers offer a range of services and have experience in treating heroin addiction as well as mental health issues. There are a number of different types of addiction treatment, including:
- Traditional inpatient treatment. People who enter a traditional inpatient facility live at the center during the treatment. These programs can last 30, 60, 90 days or longer depending on the person’s needs. They offer the opportunity to separate the person from their everyday, stressful environment to put all of their energy into recovering.
- Outpatient treatment. Outpatient differs from inpatient in that the person can live at home while attending a treatment program. Outpatient substance abuse treatment may be more suited for those suffering from relatively less severe cases of addiction.
- Luxury treatment. Luxury facilities provide the person with the same services that traditional inpatient facilities do, but they have extra amenities that make the cost more expensive. The locations often resemble a vacation spot or resort.
- Executive treatment. These inpatient centers are designed to meet the needs of CEOs and executives. They provide the working professional with phones, conference rooms, and internet access, allowing the person to continue working while receiving heroin addiction treatment.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug no matter how it’s used. If you or a loved one is addicted, seek treatment before it’s too late. Call us at 1-888-744-0789 for help locating treatment facilities in your area. Make the first move toward heroin recovery and call today.
Private Heroin Addiction Treatment
Private heroin addiction treatment is a sought-after luxury rehab center that typically has low staff-to-patient ratios, meaning people seeking help get more individualized treatment and attention. These kinds of treatment centers are located in desirable locations such as near the beach or on the countryside. They offer a variety of resort-like amenities and alternative treatments, such as:
- Private rooms.
- Gourmet meals.
- Spa treatment.
- Horseback riding.
Private addiction centers will often have higher success rates because they can afford to have more staff members and patients tend to feel more comfortable in their environment. Being comfortable with the staff and location can positively impact a patient’s recovery.
Heroin is a profoundly addictive substance that can be difficult to quit. Depending on how severe a person’s heroin addiction is, a private treatment center might be most beneficial in order to increase retention and prevent relapse.
Many forms of substance addiction often co-occur with various mental health conditions. Private treatment centers may offer experienced dual diagnosis treatment to fully address the co-morbid disorders. Be sure to ask the rehab center you are considering if they offer treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders.
Rehab placement advisors are standing by to help you find a heroin rehab program that’s right for you and your circumstances. Whether you’re experiencing physical or mental withdrawal symptoms, there’s a program that can help you heal and move forward. Call 1-888-744-0789 today for more information.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). “2013 Drug Overdose Mortality Data Announced.”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). “Today’s Heroin Epidemic.”
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). “America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse.“
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). “Drug Facts: Heroin.”
- The Endowment for Human Development. (1995.) “Heroin Update: Smoking, Injecting Cause Similar Effects; Usage Patterns May Be Shifting.“
- University of Maryland. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). “Heroin.”