In Drug Delivery Methods Part 1 we discussed two ways that substance abusers get high: by smoking or vaporizing various substances. Despite the fact that many people consider these two types of drug use to be one and the same, there are actually striking differences – including different levels of risk. However, these methods are just two of many. Nevertheless, although drug users and addicts continually develop new ways to use illicit substances, there are a number of other common drug delivery methods, such as the ones detailed in this Part 2.
Snorting – referred to in the medical community as insufflation or intranasal drug use – is the practice of deliberately inhaling a substance through the nasal passage. Because the sinuses are a direct pathway into the bloodstream, this is an extremely effective way to quickly get drugs past the blood-brain barrier. However, this is not the preferred method for many users, considering that both smoking and injecting drugs results in a faster euphoric effect.
In general the substances are prepared by cutting them into very fine powders. This is often done with a razor blade or the edge of a business card, credit card or other sharp-edged item. Individual lines of the drug are measured out (often on a mirror or CD or DVD case) and users snort them up their nostrils using straws, rolled up currency and sometimes from specialized spoons.
Often users will switch nostrils as they snort the drugs because the nasal passage will quickly become clogged with drugs and mucous attempting to flush the substances out. These users will sniff frequently, wipe their noses, exhibit bleary or glossy eyes and possibly display evidence of white, off-white or yellow powdery substance under their noses or on the side of their face.
*Types of Drugs
When it comes to snorting drugs, most people think of cocaine. However, nearly every other type of drug can be used in this manner if it is prepared as a powder. This includes prescription medications like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percoset, Ritalin, Adderall, and many more – especially prescription drugs in the opiate and benzodiazepine family. Despite attempts by pharmaceutical companies to create prescriptions that cannot be snorted or used off-label, drug users have thus far found ways to defeat most of these methods.
Other types of drugs commonly snorted include various preparations of opiates like heroin, morphine and straight opium. Special K or Ketamine is regularly snorted, as well as drugs like methamphetamines and barbiturates. Essentially, if it can be made into a powder, it can probably be snorted.
The risks associated with snorting any type of drug can be severe, but this is especially true of prescription drugs. When people abuse drugs like Valium, Vicodin or Adderall by snorting them, they are defeating the time-release properties of the pill and therefore are self-administering a much larger dose than is considered safe. Pills are designed to release slowly into the bloodstream over a period of time. But by crushing them up and snorting them, most of the effects can be felt immediately, placing the user at risk of heart attack, stroke, coma, and other serious risks. According to the Health Services Department at Columbia University, these risks include but are not limited to;
“Dangerous side effects from inhaling Ritalin and Adderall include:
*Respiratory problems, such as destruction of the nasal and sinus cavities and lung tissue
*Irregular heartbeat (heart arrhythmia)
*Problems with circulation
*Death, in extreme cases” (1)
Other less dangerous but still serious issues resulting from insufflation practices include nosebleeds, migraine, deviated septum, sinus infections, hearing problems and more.
Ingestion is almost certainly the oldest method of using mind-altering substances. In simple terms, ingestion simply refers to the act of eating or drinking a drug. This can include whole raw drugs, processed drugs, and even drugs mixed with regular food products to hide the taste or otherwise make delivery more tolerable.
Ingestion is not a preferred method for many users because the effects can take some time to appear. In some cases a user might not feel any effects more than an hour after ingestion. However, many reports from drugs users indicate that once the effects are felt, they are generally much longer lasting and affect more parts of the body than other fast-acting drug delivery methods like snorting, smoking or injecting.
Ingestion of drugs is also a common technique used to smuggle contraband, although in some cases the results of this practice can be deadly if something goes awry with the packaging the drugs were in when ingested.
*Types of Drugs
Almost any type of drug can be ingested, although in some cases drugs are not activated for direct ingestion. For instance, a person cannot obtain a “high” by ingesting fresh marijuana. Instead, the plant must be dried and cured in order for the psychotropic properties to be activated.
Other drugs can be consumed immediately for a powerful but potentially dangerous effect. This includes drugs like psilocybin mushrooms, peyote and San Pedro cactus, prescription drugs, hash, opium, cocaine, heroin and others.
Overall the risks associated with ingesting drugs versus other methods are considered to be less severe. This is partly because these drugs must undergo first-pass metabolism, which helps to break down the substances. Additionally, because the intestines and stomach wall absorb drugs much more slowly than other drug delivery methods, there is less danger of a traditional overdose. According to Dan 24/7, ingestion risks include:
“The long-term risks of using drugs in this way can include damage to the stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys. The liver is particularly at risk and can suffer progressive and irreversible damage from excessive use of drugs and alcohol.” (2)
In Drug Delivery Methods Part 3 we’ll discuss several more common ways that people use drugs, from injection to inhalation to absorption. However, if you or someone you love is struggling with a drug addiction, there’s no time to wait. Call the number at the top of your screen to get professional help right now. The call is free, confidential, and we pick up the phone 24 hours per day. Call us now.
(1) Go Ask Alice Snorting Adderall and Ritalin Columbia University Health Services
(2) Dan 24/7 Ingesting Drugs – The Risks of Ingesting Drugs