Safer snorting | CATIE - Canada's source for HIV and hepatitis C information

Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide

Safer snorting

Snorting drugs like cocaine often requires a device like a straw or rolled bill. Sharing equipment for snorting can lead to the transmission of Hep C.

The harm reduction information that follows is offered as a public health service. Its purpose is not to encourage or condone the use or possession of illegal drugs. It is to help people make safer choices in their use of drugs that will reduce the spread of Hep C and HIV.

Transmission Risk

When a drug is snorted, it comes into contact with the lining of the nasal cavity. The drug itself can cause the blood vessels to dilate and rupture, allowing tiny, even microscopic, amounts of blood to leak out onto the snorting device. Sometimes, cocaine is cut with materials like laundry detergent or ground glass that cause tiny cuts and tears in the nasal passages. These tiny cuts or tears allow the drug to be absorbed faster into the body, but they also allow for the transfer of blood to the device. Once a used piece of snorting equipment is reused by another person, not only is the drug entering their nasal passage, but also blood from the previous person. When this blood is infected with Hep C, there is a risk of transmission.

To prevent the spread of Hep C, people should use their own straws when snorting or use something that can be disposed of.
This risk increases with greater damage on the inside of the nose and the more a person uses. Recurring and frequent snorting can lead to nosebleeds, excessive mucous production and the destruction of the septum (the cartilage dividing the two nostrils). These situations can lead to easier Hep C transmission.

Safer Snorting

To prevent the spread of Hep C, people should use their own straws when snorting or use something that can be disposed of. A pack of Post-it Notes can be a large supply of disposable, rollable coke straws. As people don’t often throw out money, using a bill is not necessarily safe. It may have passed through many hands—and many noses—before coming to the current user.

Nasal Care

Rinsing out the nose with lukewarm water after using can keep it healthier, and by snorting a few drops, the water will carry the drug into the throat and none of it will be wasted. Vitamin E oil or lotion can be applied to the inside of the nose to help the healing process. 

Revised 2011.

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