A person may consider crushing their prescribed Vicodin and snorting it when they have developed an addiction to it. But what are the real dangers of doing so?
Understanding what Vicodin is and what the effects of its abuse are may help you or a loved one consider addiction treatment before it is too late.
Vicodin is a brand name for a prescription painkiller that consists of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. It belongs to a group called prescription opioids, used to treat moderate to severe pain.
It is a highly addictive opioid and recently has caused a large number of overdose deaths due to its nonmedical use. The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule II drug.
Unlike naturally-occuring opiates such as morphine or codeine, hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. This means that it is created in labs from natural opiates. As prescription drugs, they are used to treat pain following dental surgery, or for someone that has pain from an injury. They work as central nervous system depressants and when taken as prescribed, they are effective medicines. But due to the the addictive nature of hydrocodone, it can easily become habit-forming.
Someone attempting to stop taking hydrocodone may experience symptoms of withdrawal as their body has become dependent on its presence. This often causes people to keep taking hydrocodone or perhaps start abusing it. In order to withdraw from Vicodin safely, medical detox at a treatment facility is best.
Vicodin comes in extended-release preparations, capsules, tablets, and syrups. But some use alternative methods of taking it. They may smoke or snort Vicodin as they try to get a faster and more intense effect from it. As with any substance abuse, snorting hydrocodone comes with dangerous side effects and consequences.
A Vicodin addiction can easily develop. The psychoactive properties of hydrocodone impact neurotransmitters that produce euphoria and reward. As an opioid, it attaches to those receptors in the brain that create pleasure, lessen pain and slow down breathing. That results in a pleasurable, calm feeling, causing people to keep taking hydrocodone long after they need it.
A person may need more Vicodin to feel the same effects they initially did if their body has built up a tolerance to it. They can develop a dependency on it, and addiction and abuse often occur next.
An opioid addiction involves a person that is unable to reduce or quit drug use despite negative consequences. Usually, efforts to stop taking the drug cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Hydrocodone withdrawal can be painful and its severity depends on how much of the drug was used, as well as for how long. Symptoms can begin the moment the rush of the drug wears off.
A person may experience mental or physical withdrawal symptoms, like muscle aches and difficulty sleeping while having intense cravings for the drug once they stop its use.
A person may have flu-like symptoms, with sweating and chills. Other symptoms include:
A person may experience the following:
Abusing prescription drugs is not uncommon. In 2019, 9.7 million people in the United States misused prescription pain relievers.
Vicodin abuse can happen in many ways. Usually, it occurs because people wish to experience a more intense high. They do so by tampering with the drug, extracting the opioid component from it, or consuming the prescription painkiller through a different administrative route.
Even when taken as prescribed, side effects like constipation or dehydration could occur. But excessive or prolonged use or abuse of the drug increases the side effects and poses threat to someone's life.
Vicodin is intended to be taken orally, which is why its side effects are relatively limited when taken as prescribed. It has to go through the body's gastrointestinal system in order to be absorbed into the liver, bloodstream, or body tissues and have an effect. Smoking or snorting Vicodin skips the digestive system, directly transmitting it into the nasal passage tissues and the respiratory system.
A more direct absorption into the body means that the substance reaches the brain faster. It means that a user will experience a faster onset of effects, but abuse of the prescription drug increases the chance of developing dependency or addiction to it.
However, the dangerous consequences of snorting hydrocodone go beyond a higher chance of addiction.
Usually, if a person snorts hydrocodone, they may be doing doctor shopping. This is when they get prescriptions from multiple doctors. They may also be obtaining the drug illegally. Since hydrocodone pills are made up of other chemicals, fillers that are added to the illegal form of it can cause adverse consequences.
Snorting any drugs regularly can cause damage to a person's nasal and sinus cavities. It can also cause permanent damage to someone's sense of smell. Snorting Vicodin can lead to a chronic runny nose, or can cause nosebleeds.
Snorting hydrocodone can cause harm and infections in the nasal septum. The tissue inside of our noses is delicate, and snorting any powder irritates and inflames it. Over time, nasal tissue can become eroded, and the cartilage between the nostrils - the nasal septum - or the roof of the mouth can develop a hole. This makes breathing, eating, and swallowing very difficult.
By snorting Vicodin, the substance can also enter the lungs. Mucus and nose hairs that usually stop irritants from reaching the lungs can be damaged by Vicodin abuse, and so lung inflammation can occur. Asthma can be worsened, hypersensitivity pneumonitis could occur and lead to respiratory failure.
Snorting hydrocodone can also cause:
Paraphernalia for snorting Vicodin is often shared and could carry blood that is found in mucus since it comes in contact with blood vessels in the nose. This poses a risk for blood-borne viruses like Hepatitis C to spread.
As said before, when someone snorts hydrocodone, the drug enters their blood plasma faster than in oral administration. It also raises tolerance faster. That means the dosage is increased to keep feeling the desired effect, and one of the dangers of snorting Vicodin is that a person is at a much larger risk of suffering a life-threatening overdose.
When ingested orally as intended, the pain-relieving effects of Vicodin last between four to six hours. Smoking or snorting Vicodin as a form of substance abuse, causes the effect to wear off within an hour. This triggers someone to take more of it, reinforcing a habit of taking the substance but also causing them to potentially take more of it than their body can handle.
A hydrocodone overdose could be fatal. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports around 68 000 opioid-involved overdose deaths in 2020. It is best to seek addiction treatment before it's too late.
Signs of an overdose include the following:
When someone snorting drugs like Vicodin presents symptoms of an overdose, it is considered a medical emergency, and help should be sought immediately.
Overdosing on hydrocodone and acetaminophen combination drugs, like Vicodin, can be harmful to the liver. Harmful byproducts are released when the liver processes it, and excess acetaminophen can cause damage to liver tissue. The eventual scarring of the tissue can interfere with liver function, and can eventually cause liver failure. It often requires a person to undergo a liver transplant.
To counter an opioid overdose, naloxone is often used. As a widely available antagonist, it can reverse hydrocodone overdose symptoms and may give a person the chance to receive treatment at a rehab center.
Usually, when smoking drugs, it is mixed with other substances. The same goes for Vicodin, and this places a person at an increased risk for overdose as well.
When mixed with other opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, Vicodin can cause an amplification of depressant effects. These drugs are central nervous system depressants too, and the effects of both drugs are heightened. Someone who has other central nervous depressants in their body and is snorting hydrocodone places themselves at high risk for a loss of consciousness, a coma, or death.
Addiction treatment is available for any substance abuse. Anyone who is snorting hydrocodone and seeks treatment for a Vicodin use disorder can find help at addiction treatment centers for becoming sober and addressing the cause of their addiction.
There are many treatment options and they are included in the various stages of recovery.
The treatment process for a Vicodin addiction is usually started with a medically supervised detox. Medical detox provides a safe environment with professional support for someone while withdrawal symptoms can be hard or impossible to manage alone. Medical professionals include the use of medications to make hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms less severe, and reduce a person's cravings for the substance as it gradually leaves their body.
Medication-assisted treatment in the case of Vicodin could involve methadone. Methadone is a full opioid agonist, that produces a long-acting, less euphoric range of effects. Buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist, may be used instead of methadone.
After detox, a person will usually transition into another phase, with full-time support. This could mean residing at a treatment facility, called inpatient treatment. These treatment programs offer various types of therapy as a person battles addiction in both physical and psychological ways.
Someone may undergo cognitive behavioral therapy, where they identify underlying causes and triggers for a Vicodin addiction. As a form of individual therapy, they can also learn healthy ways to respond to these triggers, so that they can live soberly and healthily after treatment programs end.
Treatment programs often include group therapy and support groups, whereby someone can meet others who have similar challenges. This provides a peer support community that encourages sobriety and abstinence and is proven to reduce relapse. The addiction treatment process may include educational classes, learning coping techniques, and addressing family relationships in family therapy.
Substance addiction treatment could include outpatient treatment, where a person resides at home, and comes to a treatment facility to attend therapy sessions or support groups that help them abstain from drug use.
If you or a loved one is seeking addiction treatment, Vita Recovery is here to help. We understand that addiction is individual, and that is why we can design treatment programs that are tailored to your needs.
The experienced, caring staff at our world-class facilities will ensure that you receive the best drug addiction treatment. Whether you choose an outpatient or inpatient program, Vita Recovery can help you start your road to health today.