Differences Between Swallowing and Snorting Drugs

There are many different ways to abuse drugs, whether they are illegal and illicit drugs or prescription drugs. Most can be ingested in many ways and can be swallowed, snorted, inhaled, smoked, or injected. Either of these methods eventually delivers the drug into the bloodstream, which is how it is carried to the brain.

Swallowing and snorting drugs are both popular methods of abusing drugs, but they are different in some aspects that can impact the consequences of drug abuse. The potential risks and side effects also vary but one constant remains the same – if you are getting high and can’t stop, then reaching out for professional help is the number one priority.

crushed pills

Dangers of Snorting Drugs to Get High

Snorting drugs is the practice of sniffing any powdered substance through the nose whether it is already in a powdered form or it is crushed into a powder. Substances such as cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, and crystal meth, most commonly abused this way. Many people also often crush and snort prescription opioids like oxycodone or hydrocodone to snort them.

When you snort drugs, the way the drug is administered to the brain is different than when you swallow them. Snorting a drug requires the drug to be absorbed through the nasal membrane and goes into the surrounding blood vessels.

Then those blood vessels carry the drug to the heart and throughout the bloodstream and to the brain where the drug then interacts with the brain’s receptors resulting in the drug’s effects on the body. Snorting drugs also allows the drug to enter the bloodstream quicker than if it were swallowed, causing the effects of the drugs o the body to be much quicker. This also can increase the effects of the drug making the high much more intense.

Snorting drugs can also create different devastating effects on a person’s physical health. Because drugs enter the body through the nasal cavity, these drugs can negatively impact a person’s respiratory system. Long-term use of intranasal use can lead to things such as nose bleeds, loss of smell, and perforation of the nasal cavity, which can lead to difficulty breathing. Often, the side effects can be permanent.

Dangers of Swallowing Drugs to Get High

Many different drugs can be administered by swallowing them. Most prescription medications as well as many illegal street drugs like Acid and MDMA. When substances are swallowed, they are absorbed onto the body differently than when it is snorted and will have to overcome additional steps to reach the brain to feel the effects.

When swallowed, the drug is dissolved in the person’s stomach and is absorbed into the bloodstream by going through the stomach lining. Once it is in the bloodstream it travels to the liver to be metabolized before it can make it to the brain and the effects of the drug are felt. Due to this process, swallowing a drug can have less of a noticeable effect.

According to NIH:

About 4 percent of Americans met the criteria for drug use disorder in the past year and about 10 percent have had drug use disorder at some time in their lives.

When you swallow drugs, you can have different but equally serious negative effects on the body than when snorting them. The digestive tract and the liver are impacted after prolonged drug use in this way and can eventually lead to liver failure.

Both snorting and swallowing drugs can create lasting physical and mental health problems and both can lead to very serious substance abuse disorders. Chronic use of addictive substances in any form can lead to addiction and potentially death.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

Drug addiction isn’t an easy thing to face. Luckily you do not have to face it on your own. Our admissions counselors and professionals are available around the clock. We are ready to help you or a loved one overcome the disease of addiction. Now is the time to change your life. Let Garden State Treatment Center help you do it.


  • Why do people snort drugs?
  • What are the differences between Swallowing and Snorting Drugs?