Intranasal cocaine and blood donation

What exactly is the specific health risk that you expose yourself to when snorting cocaine that makes you ineligible for donating blood?

I understand all the other questions on the form.

There is no specific health risk to you – or if there is, it’s negligible.*

However, traces of the cocaine could remain in the blood you donate. Doctors tend to frown upon their patients getting a cocaine high in the middle of an operation as a result of a transfusion. With the patient’s body already under so much stress, the addition of cocaine (or any drug, including alcohol) could be life-threatening.

*One caveat to this – you lose a pint of blood when you donate. It takes your body a few days to restore the fluid that was lost, so during that time any mind-altering substances (such as drugs or alcohol) will have a more potent effect on you. When I worked for the Red Cross, we had a number of people who donated during the day before going out to party at night, because they could get a ‘buzz’ faster that way.

Oh ok. So the question is geared towards people who would still have cocaine in their blood, not towards people who contract some illness by snorting cocaine?

That’s my understanding. The risks to you from donating blood are essentially nil, assuming you’re in good health. However, the people receiving blood are often in a life-or-death situation, and blood collection agencies are extremely careful about screening donors to prevent the possibility of a recipient getting worse as a result of a transfusion.

People who snort cocaine are considered to be at elevated risk for hepatitis C because some people think that sharing coke-snorting straws with other people can spread the virus (because cocaine can make your nose bleed a little). I don’t know if anyone’s proved this one way or the other, but I’m pretty sure it’s the rationale for not letting people who snort drugs donate blood.

When I asked about it, the nurse told me it was because people who snort coke were more likely to engage in other high-risk behaviours such as unprotected sex. I’m not sure if she was being straight with me, though.

AFAIK, it’s the straw’s edge that makes your nose bleed, not the coke itself. If one uses a cokespoon or bumps off of a knuckle, taa-daa, no nosebleeds :wink: (and no using something other people have had up their nose BLEEGH!).

Chronic use of cocaine dries up your nasal membranes. That is the source of blood. Eventually, with chronic use, the cartilage that comprises the front of your nose - and the septum - cartilage that divides your nose chambers - erodes from the cocaine salt.

I’d assume that Hepatitis (A, B, C), like HIV, can be screened in blood. One of the many donor questions are, “Have you snorted cocaine in the last 12 months?”

“Yes? Seeya!”

Ah, cocaine. Great stuff. Want to lose part of your nose, like UK celebrity Daniella Westbrook?

Picture here
Story here

Yipes! That’s from HEAVY use though…