Snorting Oxycodone: The Dangers Associated with It

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Many common prescription drugs used for the treatment of pain, such as Percocet, Percodan, Roxicet, and OxyContin, now contain varying levels of Oxycodone. People who abuse these drugs grind them up into powder form and snort through the nose. Snorting this opioid fast tracks the effects of the narcotic on the central nervous system, which results in the strong effect that addicts seek.

Snorting Oxycodone is very dangerous as this opioid drug can cause very significant health effects. At its very worst, what happens when you snort Oxycodone can end up being fatal, especially when consumed with other drugs and alcohol. The dangers of this substance cannot be understated, and addicts should get help and treatment at a recovery center as soon as possible. The effects of detox are less intense the earlier it is done.

Why Do People Snort Oxycodone?

As an opioid drug, Oxycodone is only available for the treatment of pain with a prescription. Is Oxycodone addictive? Yes, it is, and the addiction can develop with prescription use as well. However, it is more common when abuse takes place. As a user continues their abuse of the substance, they begin to develop tolerance. This is a situation whereby the body starts to get used to the presence of this drug, and Oxycodone 5mg is not enough to achieve a desired effect. As a result, higher doses of the opioid are required. Tolerance negatively affects treatment regimens as well.

Close up of a woman hands with pills.

When addicts realize that the previous dose isn’t giving them the effect they want any longer, they continue to increase the amount of the drug. Finally, at a point, they realize that oral pills do not provide the health effects they want and may eventually resort to snorting Oxycodone.

The reason these people abuse and snort Oxycodone is because not only do the effects start faster, but they are more potent as the medication can bypass the extended-release formulation designed for oral treatment. However, recovery from these short-term effects is faster with snorting as extended-release is formulated to last as long as possible.

What Happens When You Snort Oxycodone?

Information gathered from a 2011 study showed that when people took extended-release tablets of this drug orally, the time it took to reach its maximum concentration in the bloodstream was 2.5 to 5 hours, with a half-life of 4.5 to 6.5 hours. Meanwhile, when crushed and snorted, the time to maximum concentration was between 52 and 65 minutes. It means that the health effects of the full dosage will hit the individual more intensely.

Contrary to popular information, snorting Oxycodone is not the quickest high. Even smoking is quicker as the breath already oxygenates the blood and comes with it the chemical compounds that cut out the trip from the nose to the heart to the lungs and back again. The problem with snorting, however, is that the nose is not evolved to process that many particles, and over time the mucous membrane wears down. Perforation of the nasal septum (the bridge that holds up the nose physically), chest infections, nose bleeds, and inflammation may result. Some people go on to lose their sense of smell, and even the nose itself can eventually collapse.

Side Effects Of Snorting Oxycodone

People with addiction who frequently abuse and snort Oxycodone are at a very high risk of some severe side effects to their health.

Woman having nosebleeds after snorting Oxycodone.

One of the conditions that they are predisposed to when they use this prescription substance in this manner is hepatitis. It occurs from the sharing of snorting implements like straws and rolled-up bills. Snorting Oxy predisposes to bleeding nasal mucosa, which can contaminate any paraphernalia which is used and shared.

They will also be at risk of nasopharyngeal necrosis, which is the death of the mucosa and tissue in the region where the nasal cavity and the throat meet. It’s a rare health effect that occurs more with drugs like cocaine but occurs with opioids nonetheless.

According to information from a case report, snorting opioids can also predispose to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which can worsen and significantly affect respiration. Full recovery from these severe side effects may not be possible.

Other Health Dangers of Snorting Oxy Include:

  • Sharp drop in blood pressure
  • Nasal Inflammation/ irritation
  • Irregular breathing and heartbeat
  • Damage of nasal membrane
  • Perforation of septum
  • Nose bleeds
  • Respiratory infections
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia
  • Cardiac arrest

Because the drug achieves its maximum concentration much faster than it would when taken orally, it significantly increases the potential of OxyContin overdose.

The chance of overdose is also increased when the drug is taken together with alcohol. That is because alcohol and opioids are CNS depressants. When alcohol and Oxycodone are combined, it causes a greater depressant effect on the central nervous system. It can turn fatal when the respiratory center is depressed as well, which can cause respiratory depression. In the case of overdose, emergency treatment must be gotten immediately, following which help should be sought with a recovery and detox center when the patient is stable.

As with all other addictive drugs, prolonged use will make the individual highly dependent on the drug. Upon quitting, Oxycodone withdrawal symptoms will arise as the body begins to detox. They can be experienced as early as a few hours after the last dose.

Some of These Withdrawal Symptoms Are:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Seizures
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Injecting and Smoking Oxycodone

Injecting and smoking Oxycodone are two of the fastest ways to feel its action. It explains why many of those dealing with addiction opt to smoke or use the drug intravenously, such as when they inject Roxicodone, a brand of this opioid.

When an individual decides on smoking Oxycodone, it enters the lungs and is absorbed by the very thin blood vessels there. Note that these are vessels thin enough to allow for oxygen perfusion, so they will easily take up Oxycodone.

When they inject Roxicodone, the medication skips all potential barriers and is instantly pushed to the bloodstream. It results in rapid action and a very high risk of overdose.

Snorting and Addiction

Any method of using Oxycodone that acts fast will increase the risk of addiction occurring. Instead of being released gradually towards the brain’s center where it acts, it comes in a high dose. This sudden deposit of this opioid substance will not only induce changes in the brain faster but will provide a faster onset of action and a more potent effect from the medication. It promotes addiction and addictive behavior in the person.

Breaking Free From Addiction

Addiction to this prescription opioid results in people who inject Roxicodone or smoke Oxycodone at most chances that they get and make abuse of the drug the center of many activities. Many choose to snort the drug as it does not require exclusive paraphernalia, and it will help them feel the effects they desire faster.

Unfortunately, several very significant side effects of Oxycodone can occur from the use of this drug in any way that differs from the prescribed treatment regimen. It can even result in death, especially when mixed with other medications and alcohol.

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Page Sources

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Published on: August 19th, 2021

Updated on: August 19th, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.