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3 Ways of Using Cocaine: Smoking, Snorting & Injecting

Most people think of snorting cocaine when they think of cocaine use, but it is also commonly smoked or injected.

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Crack cocaine is often smoked in combination with other drugs. 

Each method of use causes significant complications and damage. No method of cocaine use should be considered “safe.”

Can You Snort Cocaine?

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Cocaine is most associated with being snorted, and crack cocaine can and commonly is snorted. Cocaine is generally distributed as a white, crystalline powder that is relatively easy to snort up the nose. A common technique is to use a special pipe or a rolled-up piece of paper, such as a small note or dollar bill, to make snorting easier. 

Dangers of Snorting Cocaine

Snorting any kind of powder is generally considered ill-advised, even if the powder isn’t a drug. The nose isn’t designed to snort powders and can become irritated and inflamed if used for snorting, especially when snorting drugs. 

Snorting drugs can also cause infection in the lungs and blockages of respiratory tracts and nasal airways. Impurities in cocaine, which are common because cocaine is often cut with other agents, can also have an unpredictable effect on the nose that may cause further issues.

Can You Smoke Cocaine?

Smoking is the main way crack cocaine is taken, often in combination with other drugs such as marijuana. It is often smoked in simple, cheap pipes that are frequently blackened on one end with repeated use.

Dangers of Smoking Cocaine

Smoking crack causes a powerful, immediate high that can increase one’s risk of both addiction and a dangerous overdose. Pipe sharing is also common and can expose users to a wide risk of transmissible infections.

While not unique to smoking cocaine, smoking crack is also closely associated with an increased desire to engage in risky sex. It is often recommended that people who smoke cocaine carry sexual protection to reduce the potential harm these activities can cause.

Despite this increased desire for sex in the short term, long-term crack use often leads to a loss of interest in sex as well as sexual dysfunction. 

Can You Inject Cocaine?

Cocaine can also be dissolved and then injected directly into the veins or muscles, resulting in an immediate high similar to the one achieved when smoking cocaine. This is usually just done by dissolving the drug in water and then using a generic syringe with a needle. 

Dangers of Injecting Cocaine

In addition to the dangers normally associated with cocaine, there are a variety of dangers relatively uniquely associated with injecting drugs

Injecting drugs greatly increases the risk that you are exposed to bacteria, viruses, and other types of infections. This risk is not just associated with sharing needles. It is also potentially due to other sources of contaminants, such as contaminants in the water used to dissolve your drugs or in the filters used.

Injecting drugs regularly is commonly associated with tracking and bruising, where a person develops clear signs of repeated drug use at the areas they regularly inject drugs into their body. In some cases, injecting drugs can cause vein collapses or abscesses to form at an injection site, leading to further complications. 

Harm reduction is possible with injecting drugs, such as making sure to always practice good hygiene and never reusing or sharing needles, but these risks will always be present to some degree. Safe injection sites are often used as a harm reduction measure for injection drug use.

Is One Method of Use the Most Dangerous?

Injecting cocaine is often associated with the most complications, some of which are quite serious. This is simply due to the nature and inherent risks of injection drug use. These are in addition to the risks associated with general cocaine use, such as an increased chance of heart problems and potentially serious, violent mood swings. 

No method of cocaine use is safe, whether you snort, smoke, or inject the drug. If you cannot stop using cocaine on your own, you should seek help. With comprehensive addiction treatment, you can safely stop using cocaine and begin to build a healthier life in recovery.

Profile image for Dr. Alison Tarlow
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated January 19, 2024
Resources
  1. Cocaine. (April 2020). Drug Enforcement Administration.
  2. Getting Off Right: A Safety Manual for Injection Drug Users. (September 2020). National Harm Reduction Coalition.
  3. It's Not Just Chocolate Powder. You Shouldn't Be Snorting Anything, Doctors Say. (July 2017). TIME.
  4. Straight Talk - Crack. CAMH.
  5. The Case for Supervised Injection Sites in the United States. (May 2022). American Family Physician.
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