Does the Method of Drug Use Matter?

in Addiction
Published May 9, 2021
method of drug use

There are multiple methods of drug use, such as snorting, smoking, oral consumption, or injection via an IV needle. Each one of these methods can present potential health threats. This threat is amplified depending upon factors such as the drug of use and how much of it is used. Some methods such as snorting, smoking, and injection can be riskier than others and can lead to addiction, overdose, and even death.

What Are the Dangers of Ingesting a Drug?

The digestive system route is the slowest method of getting drugs to the brain. It is dependent on how full the stomach and small intestines are and what else they contain. This affects the rate of absorption at the time of ingestion. Depending on the drug, the effects after ingesting a drug may not be felt for between 20 and 45 minutes. Many different drugs can be administered by swallowing them, including most prescription medications and street drugs like acid and MDMA.

The long-term effects of ingesting a drug include:

  • Stomach damage
  • Liver damage
  • Damage to the intestines
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver failure


What Are the Dangers of Smoking a Drug?

Some people chose to use smoking as their primary method of drug use because the substance will quickly affect the brain. However, this makes the risk for addiction even higher. Drugs that are commonly smoked include:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Opium
  • PCP

This method of drug use can lead to both short and long term health problems such as:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Respiratory infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Lung damage
  • Brain Damage
  • Impaired coordination
  • Severe asthma attacks

These side effects can be exacerbated if the user is also consuming alcohol or using additional drugs.

What Are the Dangers of Injecting Drugs?

Injecting drugs via an IV needle is one of the most dangerous methods of drug use because of how likely it is to lead to addiction. Many people prefer this method because the drug goes into the bloodstream immediately, and they will experience its effects very quickly. It also ensures the individual is using all of the substance; snorting and smoking drugs is considered wasteful. Some substances that are frequently injected into the bloodstream include:

  • Heroin
  • Meth
  • Cocaine
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Steroids

Those that choose to inject face an increased risk of both skin and muscle infections. They also face a greater chance of getting infectious diseases if they share needles with others. When an individual injects a substance into their body with an unclean needle there blood is mixing with the previous users. This can lead to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that approximately one in ten HIV cases in the United States result from either injecting drugs or male-to-male sexual contact in conjunction with injection drug use.

For those who inject drugs, there are Syringe Service Programs (SSPs) available in many areas. SSPs are community-based prevention programs that can provide a range of services, including:

  • Help to find treatment for substance use disorder
  • Access to and disposal of sterile syringes and injection equipment
  • Vaccination, testing, and referrals to care and treatment for infectious diseases

According to the CDC, “comprehensive SSPs are safe, effective, and cost-saving, do not increase illegal drug use or crime, and play an important role in reducing the transmission of viral hepatitis, HIV and other infections.”

What Are the Dangers of Snorting a Drug?

When an individual snorts a drug, it enters the body through the mucus membrane in the nose and then goes to the surrounding blood vessels. Snorting allows a drug to get into the bloodstream quicker than ingesting a drug, but the method is slower than smoking or injecting a drug. Some drugs that are commonly snorted include:

  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Heroin
  • Bath Salts
  • Prescription opioids
  • Ketamine


This method of drug use can lead to serious health complications that could be life-threatening. These may include:

  • Damage to the nostrils, nasal cavity, or septum
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sinus infections
  • Loss of smell
  • Nosebleeds
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Weakened Immune System


If the equipment the user is utilizing to snort the drug is unclean or has been used by another person, they also face the risk of contracting diseases such as hepatitis C.

Do I Need Treatment for Substance Use?

Smoking, injecting, and snorting are often signs of drug dependence. If an individual is unsure whether or not they are dependent on a particular substance, there are some questions they can ask themselves:

  • Are they hiding their substance use from friends or loved ones?
  • Have they tried to cut back on their substance use but found it difficult or impossible?
  • Is their substance use affecting their ability to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities?
  • Have they continued to use despite it leading to strained relationships?
  • Have they continued to use despite experiencing negative health consequences?


How Can I Get Treatment for Drug Dependence?

If an individual finds that they are struggling with substance dependence, they should consult their primary care physician. Their doctor will be able to provide any referrals necessary and determine whether or not a medical detox is needed. This type of detox occurs in a specialized medical facility under 24/7 supervision in case of an emergency. Because withdrawal symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening, it is typically safer and more effective to go through detox under medical supervision instead of at home.

Each method of drug use comes with various risks, some of which can be life-threatening. Smoking, snorting, and injecting drugs is often more dangerous than consuming a drug orally. This is because each of these three methods leads to quick results. A user will experience the effects of the drug very quickly. Thus their risk of becoming addicted is heightened. Those who choose smoking as their primary method of drug use face the risk of problems such as lung damage, heart attack, or stroke. Those that inject risk the chance of infectious diseases such as HIV. Finally, those that snort could experience respiratory problems or sinus infections. If you or someone you know is experiencing problems with substance use, there are resources available to help. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we have helped thousands of patients take the first step towards recovery. We offer dignified, private care so that your detox process can be as easy as possible. Call (866) 296-5242 to learn more.