Snorting Meth vs. Smoking Meth: Which is Worse?

May 28, 2022

5 mins

Dane O'Leary


There are many drugs and a number of ways to ingest them. However, when it comes to crystal meth, which is more dangerous: Snorting it or smoking it?

Let's preface this discussion with an obvious but necessary disclaimer: Crystal methamphetamine is a highly addictive, dangerous drug that can ravage the mind and body no matter how you ingest it. For this reason, the question that we're attempting to answer—whether snorting or smoking crystal meth is worse—is almost irrelevant because when it comes to crystal meth, the only good way to use it is to not use it.

Having said all that, we're making a concession here by asserting that injecting meth represents the highest level of meth addiction and is obviously the most dangerous route of administration. In fact, ingesting any substance intravenously is highly dangerous and has added risks like HIV and Hepatitis C transmission due to users sharing needles. 

It's worth noting, too, that meth users tend to have unsafe sex more frequently, which is important because this means meth users could contract sexually transmitted diseases even if they're not using the drug intravenously. 

Snorting: Easier, Moderate Bioavailability

Snorting drugs is a common route of administration among recreational drug users. It's a fairly easy route of administration since it requires very little in terms of paraphernelia. Moreover, drug users who prefer snorting over oral ingestion are generally attracted to the greater bioavailability of the drug when it's consumed via snorting; in other words, more of the drug's active ingredient(s) reach the bloodstream at once when the drug is snorted versus when it's consumed by mouth. Snorting also leads to a quicker onset of the drug's effects compared to oral ingestion.

Most experts agree that snorting meth is somewhat less dangerous than smoking the drug due to the reduced bioavailability compared to other routes of administration. However, it's important to realize that snorting crystal meth is still highly dangerous and addictive.

Smoking: Less Convenient, High Bioavailability

Crystal meth users who smoke the drug prefer this route of administration because it results in even faster and more intense onset of effects compared to snorting. However, just as the onset is faster and more intense, smoking crystal meth results in the effects lasting a far shorter period of time.

It's often the case with drugs, including crystal meth, where users start out snorting the drug before they eventually graduate to smoking and even injecting it. But there are downsides to smoking crystal meth; namely, smoking crystal meth requires paraphernelia, or various tools and apperatuses used to smoke the drug. These items are liabilities for drug users because they can be accidentally left in accessible areas where others can find them and discover the individual's drug use.

Why It Matters

Now that we've gone over some of the reasons why crystal meth users might choose smoking over snorting, let's finish this discussion by answering another important question: Why is it important to understand the differences in how drug users ingest crystal meth?

Crystal Meth Kills

Like all other drugs, crystal meth is highly dangerous, so it should come as no surprise that data is showing a growing rate of mortality for crystal meth users.

If we dig a little deeper into data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), rural areas are where overdose deaths from crystal meth are becoming the most severe. Native Americans and Alaska natives have shown the sharpest increase in crystal meth use and overdose.

Crystal Meth Use On the Rise

Federal health organizations like SAMSHA, CDC, NCHS, and others point to rising rates of crystal meth use nationwide in addition to rural areas. It's even reported that an average of 500 people use crystal meth for the first time every single day. Additionally, over 2 million Americans aged 12 or older user crystal meth at least once per year; of those, a quarter reported injecting the meth. Half of the sample met the definition of methamphetamine use disorder (meth addiction) but only a third sought treatment. 

The snapshot of the epidemic offered by the CDC highlights challenges in delivering treatment to rural areas. Many who suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition are not getting proper treatment.

There's also evidence showing that people who abuse meth often abuse other drugs. The potential interactions between these substances can quickly become fatal.

Risks of Crystal Meth Use

In addition to the risk of overdose, there are a number of other risks associated with crystal meth use, the first of which is the toll it takes on your physical health. While high on methamphetamine, a person will have more energy while eating less. It’s a recipe for exhaustion. Over time, malnourishment leads to hair and teeth falling out.

The other harsh reality of using meth is the crash. It doesn’t matter whether you snort it or smoke it, the crash is severe. After using crystal meth for a prolonged period of time and then stopping, you may feel depressed or even suicidal within a day or two later.

Chemicals in crystal meth can burn the lining of the nostrils, causing permanent damage to the membranes and causing frequent nosebleeds. 

Sense of smell can be diminished when someone regularly ingests crystal meth via snorting. Some people even develop a deviated septum or a number of other physical injuries, according to a 2015 study published in Allergy and Rhinology. For instance, those who snort meth may have difficulty talking and swallowing. They may become dehydrated and develop hoarseness. 

A 2013 case study printed in an Iranian medical journal told the story of a woman who snorted meth for three years. She developed a deviated septum, among other problems. “On examination, her nasal cavities were filled with necrotic debris and extremely sensitive to touch,” the author wrote. “In addition, deformity in the form of saddle nose was observed.”

Just as snorting meth is bad for the nose, smoking meth is bad for the lungs. Methamphetamine is loaded with carcinogen-causing chemicals. The vapor alone can damage the lung’s lining and cause irritation when you smoke meth. Moreover, when you smoke meth, the body absorbs the drug quickly. Therefore, people who smoke meth become addicted faster than those who snort it. They are also more likely to exhibit the drug’s detrimental effects sooner than people who snort it. 

Regardless of how the drug is ingested, the user will need to increase the amount consumed in each instance because of the tolerance that develops over time. But many users will opt to continue using so they won't have to suffer through the intense and unpleasant withdrawals. Similarly, users who snort the drug are likely to transition to smoking and injecting the crystal meth in an effort to compensate for their increased tolerance. These routes of administration present even more potential for overdose. 

There are also psychological risks because the drug keeps users awake for days on end. This lack of sleep can result in hallucinations, irritation, and other problems. It’s a lose-lose situation with meth no matter how you cut it.

Get Your Life Back with Never Alone Recovery

It's been suggested that as much as 90 percent of those who seek treatment for meth addiction will relapse. However, as we've discussed before, a relapse doesn't mean you've failed at recovery.

The journey from active addiction to long-term sobriety can take many different forms. The key to success in recovery is to make sure you're choosing a drug rehab that can meet your unique needs.

Don't choose a program or drug rehab blindly. Let Never Alone Recovery find the right drug rehab for you (or your loved one) to achieve stable, long-lasting sobriety. Call today for information.

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