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Can You Snort Codeine? Dangers & Risks of Overdose

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated May 13, 2023 • 8 cited sources
young male holding nose

Codeine is typically sold in a small tablet for oral use. You’re meant to swallow the pill, allowing active ingredients to enter your bloodstream through the digestive tract. 

In studies of people who misuse codeine, most people prefer to take the tablets orally.[1] But crushing and snorting the powder allows codeine to enter your brain faster through the network of veins deep inside your nose and sinuses. If swallowing tablets no longer seems like enough, some people resort to snorting to try and increase the intensity of codeine’s effects. 

Snorting codeine is far from safe. The pills are not meant for this route of administration, and each time you try this method, you put your health at risk. 

What Are the Dangers of Snorting Codeine?

Codeine isn’t designed to enter your body through your nose. These are just some of the very real dangers associated with snorting the drug:

Nosebleeds & Infections

Researchers know that opioids like codeine can harm delicate tissues inside the nose, but they’re not sure why.[2] It’s possible that coatings used on the outside of tablets harm the nose, or the tools people use to snort the drug deliver bacteria directly to your nose. 

Some people who snort drugs develop bacterial or fungal infections that cause pain deep inside the nose or face. But others develop persistent nosebleeds due to vascular damage caused by drugs. You may also lose your sense of smell because of this damage.

Sinus Infections

Some people who snort drugs develop invasive fungal infections deep within sinus cavities.[3] Bacteria that can die when exposed to stomach acids can thrive inside other tissues, including those in your sinuses.

Your sinuses are both wet and dark, making them an ideal home for many different types of fungal diseases. Treating them is incredibly difficult, as doctors can’t clean every inch of the deep cavities inside your head. 

A sinus infection is painful, and you may notice a headache that doesn’t get better with time or over-the-counter treatments. Your teeth may also feel sore or loose, and some people develop foul-smelling breath.

Lung Damage

Things you snort move from your nose, through your sinuses, down your throat, and into your lungs. Once there, they can do intense damage.

Your lungs are delicate organs, filled with tiny pockets that move air in and out of your body. Snorting anything, including codeine, means exposing these tissues to contaminants that are not meant for the lungs.[4] You could block air sacs, causing nodules of infection. Or you could develop lung infections. 

Drug-related lung damage can manifest as wheezing or a persistent cough. You may also feel short of breath, especially when exercising. 

Hearing Loss

Codeine is associated with hearing loss, as researchers say it can impair the cochlea.[5] Once damaged by drugs, your hearing does not recover. Some people need implants to hear again. 

Using codeine in any format, including orally, can harm the delicate structures inside your ears. But snorting could cause even more significant problems. 

Snorting requires pulling a large amount of air inside your nose, and users often block one nostril while sniffing with the other. Each snort puts pressure on your ears, and if you sniff too hard, you could harm your eardrums. 


Codeine is a powerful opioid drug, capable of slowing or stopping your central nervous system. Since snorting the drug puts all the power of each pill into your body immediately, it increases your overdose risks. Instead of slowly entering your brain through your digestive tract, the drug hits your body very quickly after it enters your nose.

Pills you buy from dealers may be marked “codeine,” but they may contain an entirely different drug. Experienced drug users claim they can spot substances like fentanyl by the quality of the high, but if you snort the drug, you may not notice the switch until you’ve already overdosed.[6] 

Fentanyl is much stronger than codeine, and it’s often the active ingredient in drugs you buy from dealers. Since you won’t know if the drugs you purchase on the street are laced with fentanyl, this makes it virtually impossible to dose the drugs you buy in a way that will prevent overdose. There’s no way to ensure safety.

How Can You Quit Snorting Codeine?

If you’re snorting codeine, know that quitting is the best way to preserve your health and future. But quitting when an opioid use disorder is present can be difficult. Sometimes, it can feel impossible.

A Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) program uses pharmaceutical treatments to correct chemical imbalances caused by drugs.[7] With medications like Suboxone, you may avoid painful withdrawal symptoms and experience fewer cravings for opioids.[8] 

With medications, you could finally achieve the sobriety you always hoped for. This allows you to focus on the work you’re doing in therapy. You’ll be able to build a better life without opioid misuse.

Talk to your doctor about MAT and find out if these types of programs are right for you. You can also reach out to us here at Bicycle Health to learn about our offerings. We’ll discuss whether MAT is right for you and how to get started quickly if it is.

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Nod and Wave: An Internet Study of the Codeine Intoxication Phenomenon. International Journal of Drug Policy January 2015. Accessed March 2023.
  2. Nasal Septum Perforation Due to Methamphetamine Abuse. Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology 2013. Accessed March 2023.
  3. Chronic Invasive Fungal Sinusitis Associated with Intranasal Drug Use. Laryngoscope December 2016. Accessed March 2023.
  4. It's Not Just Chocolate Powder. You Shouldn't Be Snorting Anything, Doctors Say. TIME July 2017. Accessed March 2023.
  5. Oxymorphone Insufflation Associated with Acute Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Case Files of the University of Massachusetts Medical Toxicology Fellowship. Journal of Medical Toxicology June 2013. Accessed March 2023.
  6. Consuming Illicit Opioids During a Drug Overdose Epidemic: Illicit Fentanyls, Drug Discernment, and the Radical Transformation of the Illicit Opioid Market. International Journal of Drug Policy January 2022. Accessed March 2023.
  7. Effects of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder on Functional Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Rand Health Quarterly. June 2020. Accessed March 2023.
  8. Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in a Rural Family Medicine Practice. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health. June 2020. Accessed March 2023.
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