Dangers of Crushing & Snorting Pills

There are many ways that prescription medications are misused. Someone may take a higher dose of a medication than prescribed, take someone else’s prescriptions, or mix medications with other drugs or alcohol. They may also misuse a medication to “get high” or feel other euphoric effects from the medication.1,3

A common method for misusing prescription drugs is to crush and snort them.2 Intranasal misuse of prescription pills can have potentially serious health consequences. We’ll discuss the dangers of crushing and snorting pills, and how to get help if you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to prescription medications.

Is it Dangerous to Crush and Snort Pills?

Crushing and snorting pills is dangerous. In general, prescriptions pills are specifically formulated to be taken orally, digested in the stomach, and released slowly. Pill crushing — or using medications through any route of administration other than the one prescribed — can result in severe consequences, including a drastically increased risk of fatal overdose.

What Types of Drugs are Commonly Crush and Snorted?

 Many kinds of medications are crushed and snorted, but here are three classes of medications that are commonly misused.1 Pills that are snorted include:

  • Opioids: This class of medication is usually prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. In some cases, these drugs are used to help manage chronic pain in cancer patients. They include medications such as Percocet, Vicodin, Tramadol, oxycodone, and Fentanyl.
  • Central nervous system (CNS) depressants: These medications are used to treat a number of disorders including mental health disorders like anxiety, and sleep disorders. They include Xanax, Ativan, and Ambien.
  • Stimulants: This class of medication is most often prescribed to help manage the symptoms of ADHD. These include: Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta.

Dangers and Health Risks of Snorting Pills

There are numerous dangers of snorting pills and misusing medications.

Health Risks of Snorting Opioids:4,5 Misuse of this class of medication can result in constipation, nausea, disorientation, drowsiness, slowed breathing and overdose. In some cases, use may result in hypoxia — a dangerous condition in which too little oxygen reaches the brain — leading to neurological damage.

Health Risks of Snorting Depressants:5,6 Misusing central nervous system depressants can result in fatigue, disorientation and confusion, lowered blood pressure, memory problems, slowed or shallow breathing. Chronic use of depressant medications may result in seizures upon withdrawal.

Health Risks of Snorting Stimulant Medications:5,7 Snorting stimulant medications can result in hyperthermia, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and paranoia. Additionally, stimulant medication misuse may lead to severe health consequences including seizures and heart failure.

How to Know if Someone Is Crushing and Snorting Pills

The side effects of snorting pills will vary depending on certain factors, such as the amount that is being used and the frequency of use. However, knowing what signs to look for can be useful for identifying if your loved one may be crushing and snorting drugs so that you can help get them the treatment they need.

Signs of snorting drugs can include:

  • Nosebleeds8
  • Congestion and runny nose. 8
  • Constant sniffing or snorting.
  • Visible residue around the nostrils.8
  • Damage to the septum and tissue damage in the nasal cavity. 8

Someone who is misusing prescription medications by crushing and snorting them may have paraphernalia, including:9

  • Prescription bottles, including those with someone else’s name on them.
  • Pill crushers.
  • Small mirrors.
  • Rolled up paper, plastic tubes, or short plastic straws.
  • Razor blades.

How to Help Someone Who is Snorting Drugs

If you are worried about someone struggling with prescription medication misuse, having a conversation with them can be a good first step. While it’s never easy to have these kinds of conversations, they can go a long way toward helping your loved one get the help that they need.

Some helpful tips for talking to your loved one include:

  • Learn as much as you can about addiction.
  • Plan a time when there will be few or no distractions, and when the person is not using or under the influence of substances.
  • Take time to plan out what you want to say and write it down. Make sure to stay away from stigmatizing language, such as “addict” or “junkie.”10
  • Set clear boundaries and be ready to stick to them.
  • Listen to them without judgment. Let your friend or family member know that you are concerned, but ready to help.
  • Offer to help research available treatment options, including inpatient addiction treatment near Tampa.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with prescription drug misuse or addiction, there is effective evidence-based treatment that can help get you on the road to recovery. Please contact our knowledgeable and compassionate admissions navigators at today to learn more about our different levels of rehab care. Our navigators can also answer your questions about rehab admissions, how to cover the cost of treatment, and provide you information about health insurance that covers rehab.


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