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Snorting Cocaine: Side Effects and Dangers

How Does Snorting Cocaine Affect the User?
Snorting cocaine produces a longer high than injecting it. However, it can damage the nasal cavity and throat, as well as cause nosebleeds and loss of the sense of smell. It can also quickly boost a person’s tolerance to the drug, so that they need to take increasingly higher amounts. This pattern of use can eventually lead to dependence.


Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant that creates a sense of euphoria and increased energy in people who use it. A cocaine high tends to be short-lived so it is often used in a binge pattern, meaning it’s used repeatedly and in increasingly larger doses over a short period of time. Cocaine raises the risk of serious heart problems and even of sudden death in people who use it because of its range of cardiovascular effects, which include sharp increases in heart rate and narrowing (constriction) of blood vessels.

Each method of cocaine use poses its own risks. Common methods of administration are injecting (“shooting”) the drug into the bloodstream, smoking the cocaine in the form of crack, or inhaling cocaine through the nostrils – also called “snorting” cocaine.

The high from snorting cocaine tends to last relatively longer than some other methods – approximately 15 to 30 minutes compared to five to 10 minutes from shooting the drug. Even an occasional episode of snorting cocaine can lead to the loss of the sense of smell as well as nosebleeds and trouble swallowing.

Long-Term Effects of Snorting Cocaine

Long-term cocaine use can cause changes in the brain and over time it changes the drug effects that an individual may experience while under the influence. After long-term cocaine use, including binge dosing, the areas of the brain relating to reward and pleasure undergo a change because receptors in these areas become desensitized to the persistently elevated amounts of dopamine that cocaine can result in. These gradual changes in dopamine receptor sensitivity can result in a failure to send adequate signals of pleasure and reward compared to before cocaine abuse.

A person’s experience of the cocaine high may also start to change. Many long-term users find that they experience more of cocaine’s negative effects as they progress in their abuse. These effects may include:

  • Anxiety. The person starts to feel more of the anxiety associated with use.
  • Lack of muscle control. Muscle control problems and other unpleasant effects caused by cocaine use might also become more pronounced with prolonged abuse.

A user’s method of administering cocaine also has particular long-term consequences. For example:

  • Ingestion. People who ingest cocaine might experience less blood flow to the digestive system, resulting in bowel gangrene.
  • Injection. People who inject cocaine run all the risks associated with injecting, including:
  • Snorting. The most common method of cocaine use, snorting harms the body parts it brings the drug into contact with:
    • Because the cocaine powder can irritate and damage the sensitive tissue in the nasal cavity and throat, many chronic users suffer from runny, bloody, and stuffy nose.
    • Snorting cocaine regularly long term can lead to tissue erosion, nasal septal perforation, and additional inflammatory processes throughout the air passages.

Building tolerance of cocaineCocaine Addiction

The way a person takes cocaine can affect the high that is experienced and the addictive potential of the drug. Routes of administration that produce quick, intense highs – such as injecting and smoking – tend to give rise to substance dependence faster than the more gradual-onset high from ingesting it orally.

Snorting cocaine produces a high almost immediately, which can then last roughly 15 to 30 minutes. Because cocaine that is snorted is able to rapidly cross the nasal passages and enter the blood, it quickly becomes able to exert its effects as it travels through the body’s circulatory system. As a result, snorting cocaine can increase a person’s tolerance to the drug’s effects in relatively short order leading to the need for increasing amounts of the drug and eventually the development of cocaine dependence.

As tolerance builds with every line of cocaine snorted, the high decreases and causes the person to need more of the drug to experience the same effects as before. This dangerous pattern of use paves the way for a cocaine addiction.

If you see these signs in yourself or someone you love, help is available. With the right rehab treatment, you can overcome cocaine addiction. Please call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to speak with an experienced rehab placement specialist.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Treatment for cocaine addiction must address both the physical and the psychological dependence. The physical treatment process begins with detoxification to remove all of the cocaine from the body and mind and start treatment fresh and clean.

During this detox period and for a little while afterward, a person might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Agitation.
  • Depression.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Discomfort.
  • Hunger.
  • Vivid bad dreams.
  • Slowed movement.

Because there are currently no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cocaine addiction, treatment courses focus on behavioral therapies. Multiple approaches have been found to be effective, such as:

  • Contingency management, which uses a reward system to encourage abstinence.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which the individual takes a close look at their addiction, including such details as:
    • Why they started abusing cocaine.
    • How they best cope with temptations.
    • Which practices will prevent relapse.
  • The Matrix Model, an intensive treatment that’s been found to be especially effective for helping people recovering from cocaine addiction. The model involves:
    • Family, group, and individual therapy sessions.
    • Education about cocaine and addiction.
    • Learning relapse prevention skills.
    • Regular drug tests.
    • Engagement in self-help groups.

Preferences before and after treatment

Changes in Priorities in Treatment PreferencesData were collected in 2016 by Recovery Brands asking people leaving a treatment center what program characteristics they believed to be high priority aspects to examine when deciding on treatment. The highest-rated priority was the facility’s financial policies, for example insurance accepted, payment options, and financial support. They also reported valuing facility offerings (recreational activities, room quality, comforts, etc.) a lot more after experiencing treatment. Individuals considering programs may want to consider a clinic’s monetary policies as well as clinic offerings to aid in their facility choice. Read more

Luxury Rehab Programs for Cocaine Addiction

Because of the uncomfortable withdrawal period of cocaine treatment and the therapy-intensive focus, many recovering users find that a facility focused on comfort and amenities offers them the best setting in which to work on their sobriety.
Spa services at luxury treatment
Luxury and executive rehab programs tend to have many amenities that go beyond what a traditional treatment facility might offer, such as:

  • Internet access.
  • A pool.
  • Spa services.
  • Exercise equipment.
  • Private rooms.

When considering a treatment facility, individuals should think about how much these extra comforts matter to them and their recovery. Luxury and executive rehabs cost more than traditional treatment, and traditional facilities are just as capable of helping people through the treatment course. Cost can be a significant factor to consider when searching for a cocaine addiction treatment facility.

Finding the Right Cocaine Addiction Rehab Center

Comparing drug rehab programs can be tiring. The decision is necessary but difficult. For help and guidance in finding the right cocaine addiction treatment program to get help for yourself or a loved one, call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? today to consult with a knowledgeable rehab placement advisor.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cocaine. Drug and Human Performance Fact Sheets.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). DrugFacts: Cocaine.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). The Matrix Model (Stimulants).
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). What treatments are effective for cocaine abusers?
  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). Cocaine withdrawal. MedlinePlus.