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The Dangers Of Snorting Methamphetamine (Insufflation)

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Snorting methamphetamine can result in an intense but dangerous high. Meth users may think that snorting the drug is safer than smoking or injecting it, but this is not the case.

The Dangers Of Snorting Methamphetamine

Snorting methamphetamine, a highly potent psychomotor stimulant, can come with a host of dangers. While people may abuse methamphetamine by either smoking or injecting it, many also snort the drug. Some believe snorting may come with fewer health risks, such as those associated with injection, like increased risk of contracting diseases.

However, this is not the case. Abuse of methamphetamine by any means comes with certain risks of side effects, overdose, developing addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Snorting the drug produces an additional set of risks while increasing the general risks of abuse.

Snorting methamphetamine leads to less intense effects than other methods of abuse, which may be the reason some individuals believe they are at less risk of experiencing addiction, overdose or adverse effects by snorting it. Yet research shows individuals who snort meth still experience these risks and may undergo other health concerns as well.

Dangers of snorting methamphetamine can include:

  • damage to sinuses
  • increased nosebleeds
  • damage to nose lining and nasal tissues
  • increased body temperature
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • risk of addiction or physical dependence

In general, continued abuse of any drug increases the risk of adverse, short-term side effects and, with time, long-term damage.

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What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant drug, often produced in illicit labs at home with easily obtained ingredients which can contain dangerous toxins. Some ingredients used to make homemade meth include:

  • pseudoephedrine/ephedrine (the main ingredient in meth, found in common cold medications)
  • acetone
  • battery acid
  • drain cleaner
  • ether
  • iodine
  • lithium, found in batteries
  • paint thinner

Methamphetamine may be produced and consumed in several forms—a solid, rock-like form commonly known as crystal meth (smoked), a liquid (injected) or crystal meth which is ground into a powder (snorted).

While snorting meth may produce less intense effects, or a lesser “high”, than other methods of abuse, a person who snorts methamphetamine will still be at risk for adverse effects.

The Dangers Of Snorting Methamphetamine Will Still Be At Risk

Short-Term Effects Of Snorting Methamphetamine

Short-term effects of methamphetamine are those a person experiences while abusing the drug. Stimulant drugs like meth affect the central nervous system and can create an extended period of excitement and agitation in the body, leading to dangerous increases in certain body functions, including heart and breathing rates, body temperature and blood pressure.

Short-term effects of methamphetamine abuse can last anywhere from eight to 24 hours, or more if a person is abusing the drug continuously in binges.

Other short-term effects of snorting methamphetamine may include:

  • rush of euphoria
  • increased alertness, energy and physical activity
  • dry mouth
  • dilated pupils
  • extreme sweating
  • loss of appetite
  • sleeplessness
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • engaging in repetitive, meaningless tasks
  • uncontrolled jaw clenching
  • unpredictable, sometimes dangerous behavior
  • paranoia
  • irritability
  • tremors

Due to the nature of the drug, its potency and how it affects the body, short-term effects of methamphetamine can also include seizures and sudden death.

Long-Term Effects Of Snorting Methamphetamine

Snorting methamphetamine for a prolonged period of time can lead to severe, sometimes serious, side effects. The most severe effects are often experienced by those abusing meth in binges, which means they begin abusing another dose of meth as soon as effects from the last dose begin to wear off.

This often leads to a condition commonly known as tweaking, which results in a person going for days without sleep (due to meth’s stimulatory effects), loss of appetite which can lead to going for extended periods without food, extreme irritability or paranoia and psychosis.

As a person abuses meth more and more, they increase the chances of developing an addiction, which can happen quickly. Meth is so powerful that the brain quickly adapts to the feelings and effects produced by meth, resulting in a fast mental reliance on the drug, or addiction. Without adequate help in treatment, this addiction can be hard to break.

Other long-term effects of snorting methamphetamine can include:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • delusions
  • depression
  • problems with memory or concentration
  • mood swings
  • suicidal thoughts

Many people who abuse meth chronically will also experience sores of the skin, typically caused due to a condition known as meth mites in which a person feels they have bugs under their skin. This condition is so convincing that the person will scratch until they produce sores and skin damage. Having open sores increases a person’s risk of infection or contracting disease.

Methamphetamine abuse is also popularly identified by and connected to another condition it causes known as meth mouth, so-called due to the decay and damage meth causes to the teeth and mouth. This damage is usually a result of the extreme dehydration experienced by meth abusers and the general lack of hygiene resulting from effects of meth.

The Dangers Of Snorting Methamphetamine Extremely Depressed

Does Snorting Methamphetamine Increase Chances Of Addiction?

Snorting methamphetamine does increase the chances of developing an addiction to it. People who snort meth experience a less intense rush than through other methods of abuse. Because of this, they may snort higher and more frequent amounts of the drug, leading to increased risk of developing an addiction as well as overdose.

Further, what happens following a meth rush may also contribute to continued abuse and addiction. After a person “comes down” from their meth high, they usually experience a terrible “low” in which they are extremely depressed, anxious, irritable, agitated or even paranoid. They may not feel well, normal or happy until they use meth again. The more often someone uses methamphetamine, the higher the chances of developing an addiction to it.

Can Snorting Methamphetamine Cause Withdrawal?

Once a person becomes addicted to methamphetamine, they may feel intense cravings for meth when not using it. Though withdrawal symptoms for methamphetamine are not necessarily life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable enough to keep a person abusing meth, again and again, caught in an endless cycle of addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms tend to occur about 24 hours after the last use of meth and are typically not harmful unless the person engages in destructive behavior as a result of the extremely uncomfortable symptoms. Unfortunately, people withdrawing from meth have engaged in self-harm and harm of others, so it’s important to get help right away for anyone addicted to or withdrawing from meth.

Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • dry mouth
  • return of and highly increased appetite
  • extreme jitteriness
  • fatigue or extreme sleepiness
  • lethargy

How To Safely Detox From Methamphetamine

While there are no approved medications for treating methamphetamine withdrawal, medically supervised detox programs can help a person safely withdraw from the drug so they can move on to a formal treatment program.

Under medical supervision, a person detoxing from meth will receive daily and constant medical monitoring to ensure vital functions such as breathing and heart rates, body temperature and blood pressure remain at safe levels. Many people in detoxification from meth will become severely dehydrated and may already be malnourished, and medical personnel can ensure a person receives the fluids, proper nutrition and supplements to restore physical health.

Healing from the physical effects of meth and ridding the body of the drug is incredibly important to recovery success. Only once a person is free from the effects of methamphetamine, and their body back to regular functioning is their mind clear enough to be receptive to treatment.

Treatment For Methamphetamine Abuse

Because methamphetamine is such a powerful, potent drug, successfully entering recovery from it often requires a comprehensive, inpatient addiction treatment program. Inpatient care allows a person to reside in a drug and alcohol rehab center and have access to the most evidence-based therapies and treatment methods, as well as the highest level of medical care and treatment support.

Meth is a highly addictive drug, so relapse is common, especially for those who do not have a strong personal support system or who do not receive intensive treatment for their addiction. Personal recovery outcomes may vary, but research has shown that people who complete a treatment program of up to 90 days are most likely to succeed in long-term recovery goals, including sobriety.

The inpatient programs offered by rehab centers connected with Addiction Campuses are some of the most intensive and offer the highest level of care in addiction treatment. Methamphetamine addiction treatment programs will be tailored to individual need and can include any number of therapies, counseling, medication, group involvement, arts and recreation and ongoing support in aftercare—all treatment components which lend to long-term recovery.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Medline Plus - https://medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html

U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4918768/

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC
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