What happens when you snort cocaine?

Snorting cocaine causes a euphoric rush to the head and can lead to addiction. But what are the exact dangers of abusing cocaine by insufflating it? Read more about the effects of snorted cocaine here.

minute read

When cocaine is taken in small amounts, usually up to 100 mg, it produces feelings of empowerment, self-esteem, euphoria, temporarily decreased need for food and rest, and an unusual rush of energy. Some users find that snorting cocaine helps them perform simple physical and intellectual tasks more quickly, while others may experience the opposite effects.

But what exactly happens in your brain and body when you snort cocaine? In this article we review how snorting cocaine affects your system… and its consequences. Then, we welcome your questions at the end of the page. In fact, we try to answer all questions personally and promptly.

What does snorting cocaine do?

How does cocaine work? Cocaine works by speeding up the central nervous system (CNS). When snorted, cocaine enters the body through the blood vessels found in the nose and goes into the bloodstream, where it travels throughout the body and crosses the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, cocaine prevents the neurotransmitter dopamine from recycling, causing excessive amounts to build up between nerve cells. This flood of dopamine causes the intense high you feel after snorting cocaine, but it disrupts normal brain communication in the process.

How quickly does it work?

The popularity of ways people use drugs usually depends on how quickly it allows the drug to reach the brain and how long it takes for effects to kick in. Snorting cocaine tends to reach the brain at a slower rate than smoking it. When taken this way, it takes a few seconds for cocaine to cross the blood-brain barrier, but about 15-30 minutes for a person to feel the peak of effects.

Right after snorting cocaine, you experience a number of short term effects, such as:

  • dilated pupils
  • exhilaration
  • hallucinations
  • increased confidence and energy
  • increased temperature
  • indifference to pain and fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • mental alertness
  • paranoia
  • well-being

Is snorting cocaine bad for you?

Yes, using cocaine has bad short and long term effects on the body and the brain.

For some first time users even a small snorted dose can be fatal. Cocaine is responsible for many emergency room visits as it damages the brain, blood vessels, heart, lungs and in some cases leads to sudden death. Snorting cocaine for a longer period of time might cause many damaging effects, including:

  • brain chemical imbalance
  • chronic infections
  • constructed blood vessels
  • heart problems
  • insomnia
  • loss of smell
  • nasal deformity
  • nausea
  • nose damage (septal perforation)
  • nosebleeds
  • over-excitability
  • paranoia
  • restlessness
  • weight loss

Snorting cocaine creates “a hole in your nose”

One of the most visible negative long-term effect of snorting cocaine is a damaged nose called “septal perforation” or a “hole in the septum”. This is a condition that usually comes as a result of snorting or “sniffing” cocaine through the nose over a prolonged period of time. It is most commonly seen at chronic cocaine users.

How does this happen?

The nose has a sensitive and delicate blood supply, that is shut off by the use of cocaine. The drug basically closes off of the blood vessels. When the blood vessels narrow, the blood supply is insufficient. This means that lower levels of oxygen are delivered to the tissues of the septum.

When the levels of oxygen are significantly decreased, the septum lining begins to die together with the cartilage underneath it. This condition results with a hole in the septum. The septum is the structural base and support of the nose. Once the septum is full of of small holes (damaged) the nose stops functioning.

Many cocaine users have early signs of septal perforation. This condition is manageable only with the help of a surgeon who specializes in septal perforations. Once a hole in the septum occurs it will never heal on its own.

Is snorting cocaine dangerous?

Yes, cocaine is one of the most deadly drugs and snorting this drug continues to be the reason for many overdose accidents. Some of the most common (and severe) consequences leading to overdose involve the heart, the blood vessels, and the nerves. In some cases, cocaine can trigger irregular heart rhythm and/or heart attacks… or even seizures and strokes.

It’s difficult to be certain whether the cocaine you buy and use is 100% pure. The problem occurs when you have gotten used to snorting a certain amount of cocaine of lower quality, and you suddenly purchase a more pure cocaine. You have no certain way of knowing, and even experienced cocaine users might easily overdose. In such cases, it’s crucial to seek professional medical help ASAP.

If you happen to witness a person displaying any of the following signs of a cocaine overdose, make sure to seek immediate medical help. Effects of cocaine overdose include:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • dehydration
  • delirium
  • delusions
  • extreme heart beat
  • extreme sweats
  • hallucinations
  • panic
  • paranoia
  • tachycardia
  • very strong headaches

Also, the risk of developing an addiction is always present when using coke. Regardless of whether the drug is snorted, smoked, or injected, it has the ability to rapidly enter the bloodstream and penetrate the brain’s chemistry. Cocaine achieves its main immediate psychological effect – the high – by causing a build-up of the neurochemical dopamine.

Is snorting cocaine effective?

Yes, snorting cocaine can be effective when seeking a high. Still, snorting cocaine is considered as less effective than smoking it, because it provides a slower onset and a milder euphoria. But use comes with a cost.

Can you snort cocaine?

Yes, cocaine can be snorted. However, cocaine is an illegal, highly addictive and highly dangerous drug. Snorting it is associated with many serious complications and health problems, as well as deaths due to overdose.

When you snort cocaine questions

Do you still have questions about snorting cocaine? If so, please let us know. We’ll make sure to respond to you as soon as possible or refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference sources: NIH: The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction
NIH: Cocaine
NIH: The Neurobiology of Cocaine Addiction
NIDA: Drug Facts: Cocaine
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?