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Snorting Coffee (TL;DR: It’s a bad idea, don’t do it)

In an effort to get a very effective caffeine hit to stay awake, the prisoners in Netflix’s hit show “Orange is the New Black” decide to snort coffee.

The result is not pretty: the coffee ends up getting stuck in their nasal passages and going places their bodies don’t expect it to go, and they end up vomiting and in the bathroom and in a lot of pain in general.

So why is snorting coffee a bad idea?

DISCLAIMER: Snorting coffee or caffeine is dangerous and you should not do it. This post only serves as an fun discussion. I am in no way endorsing, encouraging, or compelling you to try it. DO NOT SNORT COFFEE OR CAFFEINE!

Snorting or insufflation

snorting coffee is a bad idea

The medical term for snorting is insufflation. The reason many drug users turn to insufflation for their hits is because the substance can directly go up the nasal passage, through the blood vessels and mucus membranes, and cross the blood-brain barrier directly into the brain.

Once they reach the brain, they bind to the receptors in the brain cells and do their thing, which causes the high that drug users experience.

This is technically more effective than shooting up, because it takes a longer time for the substance to circulate throughout the body before reaching the blood-brain barrier and diffusing towards the brain.

However, in insufflation, since the substance is taking a shortcut to the brain, it happens much faster.

The inmates in the show assume that anything that gives a shot of energy or a high can be snorted, but that’s a huge mistake.

In insufflation, the substance goes nearly directly to the brain without any digestion or breaking down by other processes in the body.

As a result, for snorting to be effective, the actual chemical itself must be snorted.

This is not the case with coffee.

Why snorting coffee is a terrible idea

Coffee is not the same thing as caffeine. In fact, a shot of espresso contains only 100mg of caffeine or so. In order to extract the caffeine from the beans, you need some sort of brewing process.

Usually, a combination of heat, water, and pressure does the trick. With all three, caffeine is extracted very quickly, as seen in an espresso shot, which can be pulled within 30-40 seconds and will contain around 100mg of the substance.

If you remove pressure, it takes a bit longer. With just heat and water, you need about 4 minutes to brew a french press coffee, or however long it takes for drip coffee(depends on the amount of water you use and how fast you pour it).

By removing heat and using just water, it will take even longer! Cold brew, for example, takes between 12-24 hours to brew since it uses cold water.

At this point, you probably understand where I am going with this.

Once you’ve removed heat, water, and pressure, there’s no way to get the caffeine out, which means snorting coffee is completely ineffective.

The only thing snorting coffee will do is stuff up your nasal cavities and cause you a lot of discomfort.

Don’t do it!

Snorting caffeine directly(DON’T DO IT)

Of course, where there is a will, there is a way, and people have figure out they can directly snort caffeine. To get the caffeine out, they(read: university researchers) first brewed regular coffee, mixed in a solvent(dichloromethane) that will dissolve the caffeine out of the water, and finally dried the solvent off until you were left with a fine, white caffeine powder.

Here’s the bad news: just 5 or 10 grams of caffeine is enough to kill a human, and it’s REALLY easy to snort that much without knowing it.

So to summarize: DO NOT DO IT!

What’s 5 grams of caffeine in coffee cups?

One shot of espresso contains 100 mg of caffeine.

Ten shots of espresso contain 1 gram of caffeine.

Fifty shots of espresso contain 5 grams of caffeine.

One hundred shots of espresso contain 10 grams of caffeine.

Imagine how difficult it is to be able to drink 50 cups of coffee in one sitting. That’s how much caffeine you can snort in a few seconds.

This is super dangerous, and I repeat, don’t do it!

Safer ways to get an energy boost

You probably reached this page looking for ways to get a quick energy boost. The safest way to get an energy boost is to simply drink some coffee or drink an energy shot.

There are certain blends of coffee that contain very high amounts of caffeine. You need to be VERY CAREFUL when drinking these!

One brand called Devil Mountain Coffee makes a high-caffeine coffee which contains 1.5 grams of caffeine per 12 ounces of brewed coffee.

Just 3 large-sized cups of this coffee is enough to kill you!

Drinking high-caffeine coffee should also be done in moderation. The upper limit for caffeine consumption is about 400-500 mg per day, which is around 3-4 cups of regular coffee. If you decide to drink the high caffeine coffee, you’re going to blow past that limit in just a single cup.

One way to get a boost of caffeine without crossing into potentially dangerous territory is to use half a portion of the high-caffeine coffee and half a portion of regular coffee. This will greatly reduce the chances of an overdose.

If you have even one cup of high caffeine coffee in a day, DO NOT DRINK ANY MORE COFFEE(regular or otherwise) for at least 24 hours! Your body will not have been able to remove the caffeine from your bloodstream before that. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Some people have a higher tolerance, and some people have a lower tolerance. Personally, I can get away with 4 cups without any ill effects.

Other people I know lose a night’s sleep with just a few sips of coffee at the wrong time.

You need to know your body’s limits and respect them.

Frequently asked questions

Can I snort instant coffee?

No, you can’t snort any kind of coffee, period.

Can I smoke coffee?

Some time ago there was a trend to smoke coffee beans to get a caffeine high. Smoking coffee beans is inadvisable because it has not been studied properly yet, and anecdotal evidence suggests that caffeine smoke may lead to difficulty breathing and dizziness.

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About Shabbir

Shabbir is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee In My Veins. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.