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Snorting Heroin: Signs, Effects & Dangers of Sniffing Heroin

Posted on March 25, 2023

Snorting Heroin: Signs, Effects & Dangers of Sniffing Heroin

Snorting heroin is incredibly dangerous, with the most serious risk being a heroin overdose.

Unfortunately, thousands of people across the UK die every year from heroin overdose, with numbers rising year on year.

When you snort heroin, it takes longer for you to feel high. This means that people usually tend to consume a high amount of heroin so that they can feel the high faster.

However, using drugs simply does not work that way and lots of people end up overdosing this way.

Studies have shown that lots of people who consume heroin also tend to be more ‘casual’ drug users who snort heroin for a number of days, and then stop all of a sudden for a while.

snorting white powder

This means that they build up their tolerance, and then withdraw all of a sudden. Abusing high amounts of heroin and then withdrawing all of a sudden can be extremely bad for your health.

Heroin is also highly addictive, meaning that it doesn’t take a lot to become addicted to heroin very quickly.

You should not be surprised if you only abuse heroin ‘casually’ and quickly find yourself addicted to the drug.

Heroin is especially dangerous because it affects the nervous system, and affects your heart rate, your breathing and your respiratory system. This can feel extremely scary for someone snorting heroin for the very first time.

When an individual overdoses from snorting heroin, their heart rate will slow down a lot, meaning that their body doesn’t get the oxygen that it desperately needs to function. This is when someone will overdose, and their body will quickly become unconscious and might even slip into a coma.

If you think that someone is overdosing on heroin, or is even at risk of overdosing on heroin, then you need to get them the help that they need as soon as possible. If there is no intervention, then they are at risk of experiencing hypoxia, and even potentially could die.

What is Heroin?

Heroin poppies

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid. It comes from poppy plants and ends up as a white powder or dark substance.

In some countries, like the United Kingdom, heroin is classified as a controlled substance and has no officially approved medical use classification.

Unfortunately, this means that millions of people across the world will illegally abuse heroin, which has detrimental effects and consequences to their physical and mental health.

People who abuse heroin can snort, inject or smoke the drug. Regardless of how you consume the heroin, heroin takes effect almost immediately.

This is because heroin attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain, which are then activated. This then creates a sense of euphoria, which is commonly known as the ‘high.’

When individuals abuse heroin, they will experience a range of different side effects, including an increased heart rate, difficulty in breathing, and surge of dopamine which will make you feel very excited and energised.

Signs That Someone is Snorting Heroin

Man exhausted

When someone decides to snort heroin instead of injecting heroin, it can be harder to detect and recognise. However, there are a number of signs and symptoms that you should look out for, and once you are educated in them then you will know exactly what to look out for.

Some signs will be very obvious, whereas others will be harder to notice and recognise.

Whilst you might not be able to notice if someone snorts heroin just the once, if an individual starts to snort heroin on a regular basis then they will suffer from a range of signs and symptoms.

For example, an individual who is habitually snorting heroin is very likely to constantly suffer from a runny nose. They will also sniffle on a regular basis, so much so that it will be noticeable even if you only spend a short amount of time with them.

Runny noses are a common sign that someone is snorting heroin because heroin releases a particular type of histamine in the body, released as an immune system response to protect itself from the inflammation caused by snorting the drug.

When someone snorts heroin on a regular basis, they will also suffer from a very distinct and obvious hole in their nose, particularly where their septum is.

Unfortunately, this is a very obvious sign of snorting heroin, so if you do snort heroin then it can be very obvious to most people if you suffer from a hole in your septum.

When someone has started snorting heroin, they will also start to withdraw from family and friends a lot. They also might start to disappear on nights out, and head to the toilets on a frequent basis. They might go to the toilet by themselves or with other people who are also snorting heroin.


When someone snorts heroin, they also might start to lose weight quite quickly. This is because when someone starts to snort heroin, they start to lose their appetite for food.

Many people use heroin as a suppressant, meaning that whilst you are still consuming heroin you often won’t feel the need to eat food.

Because of this, their stomach starts to shrink and people often avoid eating full meals.

Instead, you might find that they snack throughout the day most of the time, instead of eating full meals.

When someone is snorting and abusing heroin, they will also start to suffer from stomach issues. To be precise, they will suffer from things such as stomach cramps and constipation. They might struggle with things such as bloating and going to the toilet, too.

When you or someone you know snorts heroin, they will also suffer from flu-like symptoms frequently.

They might suffer from a really bad cough, a running nose or frequent headaches.

Unfortunately, people who snort heroin will also suffer from issues with their coordination and their speech. You will often find them slurring their words, falling over, walking funnily or struggling to perform simple tasks such as opening or closing doors, navigating their way through a room or simply standing still.

Often, you will find that someone who snorts heroin will start rocking backwards and forwards, as an attempt to calm down and try to relax.

Dangers & Health Symptoms of a Heroin Overdose

Hospital bed recovery

Unfortunately, thousands of people across the UK each year overdose from abusing heroin and other drugs. Whilst some people overdose intentionally, most cases are completely accidental.

Unfortunately, when people abuse heroin they don’t tend to know or stick to their limits. Heroin is also known for being insanely addictive, meaning that it does not take long for you to become addicted to heroin, no matter how you have consumed and ingested the drug.

When people consume and abuse drugs and alcohol, the more that they consume the more that they can tolerate.

This means that as their tolerance rises, they find themselves having to consume and abuse more of the drug in order to get the same effects that they once did from consuming a lot less of the drug.

Unfortunately, this chase to get the same ‘high’ that they once did means that people consume more and more of the addictive substance, making it more likely that they end up accidentally overdosing.


If you or someone you know is currently chasing this ‘high’ then it is time for an intervention.

In order to intervene, you need to be well educated in some of the signs and symptoms of abusing heroin, and what someone who is close to heroin might look like.

At Rehab Recovery, we don’t want anyone abusing heroin or being at risk of overdosing from snorting heroin.

That is why we have compiled a list of signs and symptoms below so that you can easily identify someone who is suffering from heroin addiction and is at risk of overdosing.

  • Struggling to breathe or having difficulty catching their breath
  • Struggling to swallow or complete sentences without swallowing
  • Suffering from very small pupils
  • Their tongue turning a strange, abnormal colour
  • Suffering from low blood pressure
  • Their nails and lips will look discoloured and often blue
  • A weak pulse
  • Stomach issues
  • Feeling very confused and disorientated
  • Losing consciousness
  • Falling into a drug-induced coma
  • Getting bad sinus infections
  • Suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and paranoia

Other Signs that Someone is at Risk of a Heroin Overdose

Man therapy

Struggling financially

When people abuse heroin, they tend to struggle financially. This is because heroin, like most other drugs, is very expensive.

According to Drug Wise, the typical cost of a 0.1g bag of heroin in the UK is approximately £10, according to the latest study carried out in 2016.

When someone is addicted to heroin and abusing heroin on a frequent basis, they could end up spending hundreds of pounds a month on the drug, which will quickly drain any bank account – no matter how much money they earn.

Issues with privacy

When someone starts to abuse heroin, they will start to become more private and will withdraw from spending time with family and friends. They will ultimately want to spend more time alone or with other drug users, and might even abandon and change friendship groups in order to do so.

They will start to lie and deceive you

When someone starts to abuse and snort heroin, they will also start to lie to you about lots of different things. They will start to lie about what they are getting up to, who they are seeing, that they are abusing drugs in the first place, and might even start to steal things from you in order to help to fund their addiction.

Angry conversation between two people

Frequent mood swings and arguments with loved ones or friends

When someone is abusing heroin, then they will often experience mood swings, resulting in lots of arguments with their family, friends and other loved ones.

This is because when someone abuses drugs, they become more emotional and erratic, and their behaviour can fluctuate between extremes.

They will also suffer from extreme highs and extreme lows.

This makes it particularly difficult for them to hold down a job, maintain healthy relationships and function day-to-day.

People who suffer from an addiction to heroin are also a lot more likely to suffer from anger issues, and the more they consume the drug the angrier they tend to become on a day-to-day basis.

They might find themselves not only arguing more often but becoming physically violent with them, too.

People who abuse drugs are also a lot more likely to suffer from a range of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

How Is Heroin Snorted?

white powder

There are lots of different ways that someone can consume heroin, including snorting, injecting and heroin.

This is because heroin can come in many different forms, including powder and liquid form (a very thick, tar-like liquid).

People who snort heroin will need to purchase the heroin in powder form.

People often opt for snorting heroin over injecting or smoking heroin because it is deemed the easiest way of consuming the drug.

This is because in order to smoke or inject heroin, you will require a lot of different tools and paraphernalia, such as pipes or needles.

For this reason, snorting heroin is usually what people who are addicted to drugs do on nights out.

In order to snort heroin, all you need is a flat surface, such as a credit card or a phone.

You will then separate the heroin, which is called creating a ‘line’ of heroin. People then tend to use a small piece of paper or banknote to snort the heroin.

Why Do People Snort Heroin?

People snort heroin over other forms of consuming heroin for a number of different reasons. Most people choose to snort heroin over injecting or smoking heroin because it is usually the quickest and easiest way to get your ‘fix.’

If you want to take heroin discreetly, then snorting heroin means that you do not have to carry any paraphernalia with you.

As long as you have a flat surface to snort the heroin off of, then you are able to get your ‘fix.’

People also snort heroin because they want to avoid using things like needles, as sharing needles can be a very dangerous thing to do.

By using a needle to consume heroin, you are putting yourself at risk of catching a whole host and range of diseases, including HIV or Hepatitis C.

Unfortunately, lots of people (wrongfully) believe that by snorting heroin, they are less likely to become addicted to heroin in the long run. However, this is simply not the case.

Paraphernalia to Look out for When Someone is Snorting Heroin

heroin paraphernalia

Snorting heroin is a very quick and easy way for people to get their drug ‘fix.’

If you suspect that your loved one is abusing heroin, then you should look out for some of the below paraphernalia, which could suggest that they are choosing to snort the heroin, as opposed to smoking or injecting the heroin.

  • Rolled-up banknotes
  • Rolled-up, small pieces of paper
  • Straw or other small tubes with powder on them
  • Little spoons
  • Little bags that look like they have had drugs or white powder in them

If you suspect that your loved one or friend might be abusing drugs by smoking or injecting heroin, then you should look out for the following paraphernalia.

  • Needles lying around
  • Syringes
  • Filters
  • Foil
  • Lots of lighters or even candles
  • Little cotton balls
  • Pipes
  • Bottle caps
  • Small spoons

If you see any of the above paraphernalia lying around, then you should try to intervene and get your loved one the help that they need.

Withdrawing from Heroin

Mental health

Unfortunately, when you abuse drugs regularly, you become dependent on them. This means that when you temporarily stop using the addictive substance, your body enters a phase called withdrawal.

Because heroin is physically addictive, lots of people who are addicted to heroin find themselves physically dependent on the substance.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly unpleasant, and can last anywhere between a few days to a week or even longer.

Withdrawal symptoms can often start as soon as a few hours or a day or two into your withdrawal. For others, they could start 6 days in. This will vary depending on how severe your addiction is, what you are addicted to and how long you have been addicted to the drug or substance.

When you withdraw from heroin, you will feel a number of rather unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Some of these symptoms are listed below.

  • Feeling like you have the flu (a running nose, a headache, fever and chills)
  • Your body aching
  • Feeling tired and weak
  • Struggling to sleep (insomnia)
  • Getting goosebumps and constantly feeling cold
  • Tremors and shakes
  • Struggling with depression and anxiety
  • Tummy aches and stomach cramps

If you are currently withdrawing from heroin, then you will need to be monitored by healthcare professionals in order to ensure that you are withdrawing in a safe environment.

This is because withdrawing can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you are not being monitored by healthcare professionals in a controlled environment.

Depending on what you are addicted to and how severe your addiction is, you might be asked to withdraw from the addictive substance slowly, so that you do not overwhelm your body by withdrawing suddenly.

If you or someone you know is considering withdrawing from heroin, then you should seek help from a local rehab centre.

You or your loved one will be looked after by a range of healthcare professionals, ranging from doctors to clinicians to therapists who will monitor you 24/7.

Treatment Options For a Heroin Addiction


If you or someone that you know is suffering from an addiction to heroin, then it is time to seek help. If you suffer from an addiction to a less severe and addictive drug, then you might not require rehab treatment.

However, heroin is unfortunately highly addictive, meaning that in order to recover, you will have to attend a rehab centre and receive a range of different treatment options.

Heroin is physically addictive, which means that in order to recover you will have to undergo a physical heroin detox.

A physical detox is when you purposefully withdraw from the addictive substance so that you allow your body the chance to overcome the need for the substance.

As discussed above, this can be fairly unpleasant and will require medical attention and a lot of hard work and determination.

When you come out of the other side of your physical detox, your body will no longer be reliant on the addictive substance in order to function.

Once this detox is complete, you will then have to work on the mental side of your addiction. This will usually require a range of different therapy and treatment techniques, including things such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) motivational interviewing, group therapy, family therapy and holistic therapy.

These therapy techniques will play a huge role in your recovery journey, and although you might be hesitant at first, a lot of sufferers put their recovery success down to the work achieved during these therapy sessions.

At Rehab Recovery, we recommend a range of different rehab centres which all recommend a range of different therapy techniques, some of which are mentioned above.

Get in Touch with Rehab Recovery

Man with phone

If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to heroin, then you should seek help from Rehab Recovery. Our team of friendly advisors are on hand to help and advise you on where to go to get the very best help for your addiction issues in your area.

At Rehab Recovery, we work with a range of different rehab centres who specialise in treating a huge selection of different addictions, including heroin.

If you want our help and advice, then call a member of the team on 0800 088 66 86 or by visiting our website on

We will ask you a number of questions, and then will be in the right place to advise you on what you should do next. We will recommend the right rehab centre and treatment options for you and your situation.

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