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.

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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.


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  1. Hi I’m a mum of a 24 year old son, he using cocaine and I’ve told him to stop at once, he returned home at 6 am in a funny agitated way wanting to commit suicide and saying sorry to every body and for been a let down, it’s really affecting me as he won’t listen, he knows best, he says it helps him relax and be like his friends on a night out, I don’t know what to do or tell him, apart from stop it,

    1. Hi Michelle. I suggest you call our helpline to get in touch with a trusted treatment consultant to speak about possible treatment options about your son.

  2. Someone held a white powder under my nose. I’m not sure what kind of drug it even was, but I think that it was cocaine, although it could have been something else. I didn’t snort it, but it was close enough where a small amount could have gotten into my nose. I didn’t experience a high or any side effects. I had about six drinks over a 16-hour period that day. I’m wondering if the drug will show up in my urine even if I didn’t get high, and, if so, how long it will be evident in urinalysis. I’ve never done anything except for marijuana before and I haven’t smoked that in about 9 years. I’m really worried about this.

  3. How do i clear up my nose after i gave up sniffing cocaine. It’s getting sticker and keeps beening block and bleeding. Jonny

    1. Hi Reed. There are always other options to deal with depression and pain instead of taking drugs. Abusing substances is just a way to escape reality, which don’t solve problems… you just bury them inside you. You need a therapy to start confronting your fears and situations that caused your depression.

  4. It seems snoring cocaine would effect your lungs. Am I close to being right? When you snort line your breathing in which seems like the lungs are involved..how are they not?

    Thanks. Research only

  5. If you ever find out your child is using drugs, allow me to light you up.
    The main concern with most popular drugs are that their use is incorrect, you will not become mentally ill from some cocaine that isn’t cut with active ingredients that shouldn’t be there, LSD will not make you lose your mind if you are mentally healthy in the family, and yes.. some drugs can be addictive
    But it’s usually rather an emotional use of them because they don’t have anything else to relief their stress. No
    Drug abuse is not okay
    But it ain’t the devil we thought it is years ago.
    Now to clear things up
    Children who use drugs are usually aggressive towards their parents so they could stay in rational distance rather then be misunderstood by their parents, it’s USUALLY not a side effect of a drug (unless, your child is a heavy user)
    My suggestion is instead of blaming your child, to read about the substance your child is using, it’s best to read in drug user forums or the website ‘PsychonautWiki’
    They usually contain REAL information that is ment to protect users.
    Understand your kids, learn to befriends with them
    But don’t pressure.
    You shouldn’t corner your child
    It will only mentally make it difficult for the both of use rather than empathy.

  6. I recently found out my boyfriend of 3 years, father of my 2 girls has been snorting cocaine. I can’t help but feel this huge flow of disappointment and anger running through my body. Why do a lot of working men do this?? Kind of like “drinking a well deserved beer after work” but instead,it’s taking a hit… he said he’s been doing it way before we started dating but I just can’t believe it, because I never really saw a difference in his mood till now? Now that I put the pieces together. Am I over reacting?? Is cocaine a trend?? Is it okay to do it??

    1. Hi Maryanne. It really depends on many variable factors, including how much was used and how cut the cocaine was.

  7. Hi,
    I never did cocaine until a friend asked me to try. I have sunce snorted up to 2g in one night. I do not enjoy the effects anymore. So I stopped a few days ago. My nose seems to randomly be bleeding and is not clearing up. It feels like I have allergies which I never have. Is there anything to help this? I would say I was doing 1/2 g to 2g in the end over a 1 year period ….would that mean I’m addicted or have developed a habit. I don’t “crave” just did with a certain friend. Thanks for any tip

  8. I’ve just discovered my 19 year old daughter is taking cocaine after she confessed to her sister last night,I’m beside myself with worry I’m not sure how long this has been going on for or how often,we have noticed a big change in recent months in her behaviour she is aggressive and can’t discuss issues without kicking off, she is paranoid and is depressed .I’m guessing she only does it when going out but her boyfriend is also taking cocaine so this could be when she stays at his house twice a week too,I’m shocked and surprised as she was gutted when she found out her boyfriend was using cocaine!,my husband and I think she is doing it to fit in with him as she is obsessed with him?,we don’t know where to go from here and how to deal with this,please help!,

  9. If a person were to be snorting cocaine and after a couple hours starts having extremely sensitive ribs, or “soar” ribs and feels their organs around that area doing something that doesn’t normally happen, what would be the science behind that ?

  10. if you stop taking/snorting cocaine would your brain chemical imbalance
    chronic infections
    constructed blood vessels
    heart problems
    loss of smell
    nasal deformity
    nose damage (septal perforation)
    weight loss and dopamine/ nerochemical increase/build or come back?

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