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snorting vs shooting heroin. Which way is safer?

If I snort heroin powder, is it safer than if I inject it in a vein?

I have spoken to many heroin users who are self-proclaimed experts on the topic of how to use heroin without dying of an overdose. Unfortunately, when people use heroin or any other similar drug, there is no guarantee of safety no matter what they do. In fact, there is a lot of misinformation out there. What seems like it would be safer may, in fact, be just as dangerous. While using a needle to inject heroin, fentanyl or morphine is very dangerous, snorting is not in any way a safe method of using any opiate.

The risks of snorting heroin.

Heroin overdose is a risk with snorting. While it may seem like a safer method of drug use, when it comes to heroin, there is no safe way to use it. This is especially true now because heroin is often contaminated with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a super-potent opioid that is often found in heroin to increase the potency. In fact, often what users think is heroin is actually pure fentanyl. Some forms of fentanyl are so toxically potent that even contact with skin can lead to an overdose. While heroin use with a needle can deliver a nearly instantaneous deadly dose, snorting the drug into delicate nasal tissues is practically just as risky. What you may think is just a little bit can be more than enough to cause respiratory depression and death.

Can I get hepatitis from snorting heroin?

Typically, we associate hepatitis, particularly hepatitis c, infection with the use of dirty needles. Of course, shooting up heroin with a dirty needle and syringe can easily lead to hepatitis. What you may not be aware of is that it is possible to be infected with hepatitis by snorting the drug as well. If the drug or drug paraphernalia is contaminated, infection is then possible. Hepatitis viruses can live for some time outside of the body. Also, it is important to understand that when you use a drug such as heroin, your thinking is impaired. When high on heroin, it is easier to cross lines that you would not normally cross.

Drug use impairs your thinking and lowers defenses. 

While your intention may be to go no further than snorting heroin, you may find yourself in a social situation where a needle and syringe is passed to you. A helpful “friend” may offer to assist you in learning how to use heroin by shooting it with needle and syringe. While you know this is high risk, your concern in the moment may only be to get as high as possible. Once you inject the drug, you may find that you prefer using a needle to simply snorting. Even if you use clean needles and syringes, it only takes one episode of heroin use with a dirty needle in a desperate situation to lead to a life-long issue with a chronic infection, such as hepatitis or HIV. Needle exchange programs and safe injection sites can lower the risk of infection significantly.

Are withdrawal symptoms less intense with snorting heroin vs shooting heroin?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when a person who uses an opioid drug regularly stops taking the drug. This may occur for several reasons. When it comes to addiction, there is often times where access to the drug is limited. This could be because you run out of money or because the drug dealer has gone out of business. Or, maybe you have made a decision to finally quit heroin and get clean. Usually, within the first 24 hours of not using heroin, withdrawal symptoms will start. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. However, there are medical treatments that can make withdrawal more tolerable. To answer the question, snorting or shooting will cause you to become dependent on the drug. After you are physically dependent, you will go into withdrawal if you stop using heroin. And, withdrawal is no less intense for users who snort vs drug users who shoot their drug in a vein with a needle.

Does buprenorphine work just as well for heroin users who snort their heroin?

Buprenorphine is the main ingredient in the drug, Suboxone. Suboxone and similar brands, such as ZubSolv and Sublocade, are used to treat heroin addiction and other forms of opiate addiction. It doesn’t matter if the drug user snorts their drug or uses by injection. In the end, opioid addiction is, in a sense, all the same. Whether it is pills taken for pain that lead to addiction or street heroin used recreationally, the psychological and physical effects are the same. Buprenorphine treatment works. This is why SAMHSA recommends bupe or naltrexone as a part of a comprehensive medication assisted treatment program to treat heroin addiction and opioid addiction with detox and maintenance.

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