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Snorting Cocaine: Side Effects and Dangers

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant that creates a sense of euphoria and increased energy in people who use it.1 Since its high tends to be short-lived, cocaine is often used in a binge pattern, meaning it’s used repeatedly and in increasingly larger doses over a short period of time.1,3 Cocaine raises the risk of serious heart problems and even of sudden death in people who use it due to its range of cardiovascular effects, which include sharp increases in heart rate and constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels.1-3

Snorting cocaine produces a longer high than injecting it.

How Does Snorting Cocaine Affect the User?

Cocaine is an extremely addictive stimulant that creates a sense of euphoria and increased energy in people who use it.1 Since its high tends to be short-lived, cocaine is often used in a binge pattern, meaning it’s used repeatedly and in increasingly larger doses over a short period of time.1,3 Cocaine raises the risk of serious heart problems and even of sudden death in people who use it due to its range of cardiovascular effects, which include sharp increases in heart rate and constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels.1-3

Drug Use Methods

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.1,2

The high from snorting cocaine tends to last relatively longer than some other methods – approximately 15 to 30 minutes compared to 5 to 10 minutes from smoking the drug.

Snorting cocaine produces a longer high than injecting it.1 However, it can damage the nasal cavity and throat as well as cause nosebleeds and loss of the sense of smell.1,3 It can also quickly boost a person’s tolerance to the drug so that they need to take increasingly higher amounts for the same effects.3 This pattern of use can eventually lead to dependence.3

The high from snorting cocaine tends to last relatively longer than some other methods – approximately 15 to 30 minutes compared to 5 to 10 minutes from smoking the drug.1 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

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 significant changes.3 Extensive cocaine use usually results in persistently elevated dopamine, which helps the brain send reward and pleasure signals. Brain receptors in these areas become desensitized to the constant supply of dopamine from cocaine use. 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.3

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 use. These effects may include:3

  • Anxiety. The person starts to feel more of the tension, worry, and fear associated with use.
  • Lack of muscle control. Muscle tension, spasms, 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:3

  • People who ingest cocaine might experience less blood flow to the digestive system, resulting in bowel gangrene.
  • People who inject cocaine run all the risks associated with injecting, including:
  • 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 noses.
    • Snorting cocaine regularly long term can lead to tissue erosion, nasal septal perforation, and additional inflammatory processes throughout the air passages.

 Cocaine Addiction

Short-term effects of cocaine use may include anxiety.

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.1 Because cocaine that is snorted is able to rapidly cross the nasal passages, enter the blood, and easily cross the blood-brain barrier, it quickly becomes able to exert its effects. 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 if the same amount of cocaine is used, which 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.

 

In less than five minutes, see if your loved one—or you—may be addicted to cocaine. Take our online confidential survey.

Treatment for Cocaine Use

Treatment for cocaine addiction must address both physical and psychological dependence. The physical treatment process begins with detoxification, which helps those with cocaine addictions clear cocaine from their bodies and recover from its toxic effects, allowing those suffering from addiction to start treatment fresh and clean.

During this detox period, and for a little while afterward, a person might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including:1

  • 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:4,5,6

  • 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
    • Education about cocaine and addiction.
    • Learning relapse prevention skills.
    • Regular drug tests.
    • Engagement in self-help groups.

 Luxury Rehab Programs 

Many recovering users find that a facility focused on comfort and amenities offers them the best setting in which to work on their sobriety.

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.

Luxury and executive rehab programs tend to have many amenities that go beyond what a traditional treatment facility might offer, such as:

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.

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

Sources

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). DrugFacts: Cocaine.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). MedlinePlus: Cocaine.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Cocaine: How is cocaine addiction treated?
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): The Matrix Model (Stimulants).

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