In Drug Delivery Methods Parts 1 and 2, we discussed a number of different ways that people use to get high from illicit substances. These methods include smoking, vaporizing, ingesting and snorting a wide variety of illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, marijuana, crack, meth and many more. In this final Part 3 of the series on drug delivery methods, we’ll discuss the remaining types of drug use methods: injection, absorption, and inhalation – the last two of which are relatively unheard of by the general public.
Absorption was a drug delivery method popularized by Jimmy Hendrix, despite the fact that humans have been using this practice for thousands of years to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Hendrix accomplished this by allegedly placing LSD on his forehead and letting it absorb through his skin. Rumors have maintained for decades that this was the reason for the guitarist’s constant use of a bandana wrapped around his forehead.
Reports of this transdermal property are likely true considering that the first known use of LSD occurred when a Swiss scientist accidentally handled the substance and subsequently embarked on the first known LSD “trip.”
Albert Hoffman, the creator of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, recounted his first experience with the drug, which he apparently absorbed through his skin;
“Because of the known toxicity of ergot substances, I always maintained meticulously neat work habits. Possibly a bit of the LSD solution had contacted my fingertips during crystallization, and a trace of the substance was absorbed through the skin. If LSD-25 had indeed been the cause of this bizarre experience, then it must be a substance of extraordinary potency.” (1)
But LSD isn’t the only drug that can be administered trans-dermally. Illicit substances can be absorbed through nearly any part of the skin, or it can be dissolved in mucous membranes like the mouth, eyes, and even in the anus. (Although technically this last method is considered more “ingestion,” than anything, despite the fact that the drugs are absorbed into the bloodstream by the colon.)
In fact, the absorption method is how products like nicotine or pain-reliever patches work – they release a small amount of the required substance slowly into the skin. And while this might not be a preferred method by most drug users, it does tend to have more consistent and longer lasting effects than other drug delivery methods.
Types of Drugs
When prepared in the correct manner nearly any type of drug can be administered with a transdermal application. This includes drug patches already widely prescribed – and diverted by drug addicts – such as Fentanyl, Methadone, Morphine and many others. Illicit drugs that some users regularly handle like cocaine, heroin, meth, crack, ecstasy and Ketamine can also be absorbed through the skin if the contact is frequent enough and the drugs are of high potency.
Few studies have been conducted to determine if the risks of trans-dermal drug administration are any more or less significant than the risks of other drug delivery methods. However, because the effects take much longer to take effect, some substance abusers can place themselves at risk of overdose when they apply more than necessary because they do not feel immediate results.
Intravenous drug use is by far the most dangerous of all types of drug delivery methods and is likely responsible for more overdoses than any other type. This drug delivery method requires the use of hypodermic needles to inject illicit substances directly into the veins – and therefore the bloodstream, where the drugs will have a direct path to the brain.
Many intravenous drug users carry complete kits with them that include tourniquets, needles, syringes, rags, tubes, lighters, a spoon, and other IV drug use items. Because needles are highly regulated in the U.S., many drug users are forced to reuse the same needles over and over again.
Injections cause small to moderate injuries depending on the user’s abilities and experience with needles. This means that over time, “track marks” can build up in an area that an addict uses regularly for injections. Therefore, many addicts will inject into difficult-to-spot areas like in between the toes, in the scalp, the buttocks and even on the inside of the lips.
Injections can also be administered intramuscularly, which involves placing the needle deep into a large group of muscles and injecting the substance directly into it, where the muscles will then absorb the drug into the bloodstream.
Types of Drugs
Opiates are commonly injected, including prescription drugs like Oxycontin that are “cooked down” into a solution and placed in a syringe. Cocaine, meth, Ketamine, morphine and other drugs can also be injected. However, the most widely injected drug is heroin and other versions of heroin like Methadone.
From the risk of infectious disease like Hepatitis, HIV and other life-threatening diseases to the significant risk of overdose, this drug delivery method is by far the most dangerous. Additionally, intravenous drug use is also associated with a high risk of violence, rape, murder and suicide. IV drug use leads to addiction rapidly, and relapse rates among people that attempt to stop using are astonishingly high. However, blood-borne illnesses present the most significant threat. According to Jim Davis, Founder of Recovery First, a powerful drug rehab center;
“Blood borne illnesses of any type are always a risk when sharing needles or using needles in an unsanitary manner. Hepatitis C (and other versions of the virus) is a dangerous disease of the liver that is directly associated with IDUs. This is a non-curable illness . . .” (2)
Inhalation is not to be confused with insufflation or snorting. Whereas the latter consists of the act of snorting an actual physical substance into the nasal and sinus passages, inhalation deals with vapors only. These often consist of the vapors of various liquids that give off gases when exposed to the air.
In most cases users will breathe these substances directly from the container they are in, or they’ll soak a rag or other cloth in the substance and breathe through the rag.
Types of Drugs
Most of these drugs consist of common household products like furniture polish, potpourri spray, gasoline, permanent markers and so on. However, some illicit drugs, such as the drug known as Rush, are only marketed to black market drug users and have no known applications other than intoxication.
The risks of inhaling certain chemical vapors can be deadly – especially when the drugs in question are household products that were never meant for human consumption. According to The Anti Drug, an organization dedicated to educating people about the effects of drug use, states;
“Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death. Heart failure results from the chemicals interfering with the heart’s rhythm regulating system, causing the heart to stop beating. This is especially common from the abuse of fluorocarbons and butane-type gases. High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions or seizures, coma, choking or fatal injury from accidents while intoxicated.” (3)
Regardless of the delivery method, all drugs can be dangerous – and some can be deadly. Addiction and the threat of serious legal consequences including prison time are all very real possibilities. If you or someone you love is in the throes of addiction and you need help, call the number at the top of your screen now for a free consultation that can help you get your life back. Start now – don’t wait another moment – the risks just aren’t worth it.
(1) Squidoo Albert Hofmann: The Man Who Discovered LSD
(2) Davis, Jim Intravenous Drug Abuse Explained Part 2 Recovery First
(3) The Anti Drug Inhalants and Huffing