From Bad to Worse: 5 Reasons Why Snorting Pills is Harmful

Non-medical use of prescription pain medication is a rampant problem affecting nearly 2.5 million people in the United States. This is even more distressing when you consider the suffering and adverse health effects that result from such abuse. One report, released by the Drug Abuse Warning Network, indicates that approximately one million visits to emergency departments could be attributed directly to prescription drug abuse.

The various harmful effects upon the body that result from drug abusecan be further aggravated by the method used to ingest the substance. Many people who abuse drugs prefer to take prescription pain pills by crushing them into powder and then inhaling them through the nose.

Why Do People Snort Pills?

The desire to achieve a quick and powerful high can lead to a preference to snort drugs, known medically as nasal insufflation. This usually results in a rapid onset of euphoria.

When taken orally, the effects of most prescription medications take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes or longer. The body's digestive processes must break down the medication before it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

The powdered form of pain medicine is typically absorbed much more quickly into the bloodstream through the soft tissues in the nasal cavity. With some opioids, the “high” effect can be nearly instantaneous when absorbed through the mucosal lining of the nose.

Five Harmful Effects of Snorting

Taking any medication in a manner not intended or prescribed is a form of drug abuse. Any drug abuse involves potential risks to your health and can lead to multiple complications. In particular, there are serious concerns related to snorting pills that compound the dangers normally associated with abusing prescription drugs. These side effects involve a variety of unpleasant and damaging possibilities, such as:

  • Throat irritation and infections. When forcefully inhaled, powder or particulates can be inadvertently swallowed or may drip down the throat in nasal mucus.
  • Sinus irritation and infections. This occurs due to unnaturally forcing dangerous substances through the nasal and sinus lining. Problems can occur suddenly and do not require long-term abuse, as is often assumed.
  • Damage to nasal membranes. Initially, the production of mucus is boosted to protect the nasal membranes as a natural defense against foreign bodies entering the nasal passages. Repeated administration by this method becomes less effective. Extended use can cause severe damage, resulting in permanent destruction of the nasal tissues.
  • Overdose. Risks of toxicity increase due to rapidly reached serum concentration levels in the blood.
  • Transmission of disease. Sharing a straw or dollar bill to suck the powder up into the nose adds significant risk of contracting Hepatitis C or other blood-borne diseases.
  • Helping to Prevent Snorting

    In addition to the general risks associated with abusing drugs, the side effects of snorting have prompted new approaches to combat substance abuse. Important new developments are taking place to help curtail certain abusive behaviors. Several pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers have begun to incorporate preventative measures directly into the drugs themselves.

    These measures, called opioid abuse-deterrent properties (OADP), involve creating special formulations for both current and new prescription medicines. The resulting pills are prepared with built-in qualities that make it much more difficult to abuse the medications. As it pertains to preventing snorting, some pills have the following properties:(3)

  • Physical barriers or coatings that prevent or resist crushing
  • Antagonistic combinations or additives that interfere with, reduce or defeat euphoria
  • Aversion substances that cause burning or discomfort to nasal passages when snorted
  • Delivery system designs that, if crushed, result in particles too large to absorb through nasal mucosa
  • Initial reports on the effectiveness of these and other OADP approaches have been positive. The new formulations are garnering increasing support from healthcare and rehabilitative professionals, and several states have already enacted legislation encouraging their use. To learn more about what is driving prescription drug use, you will find another resource here.

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