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Dangers of Snorting Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is used in many prescription medications and is frequently prescribed as opioid pain relief. However, the high prescription rates make the drug readily available and contribute to the high rates of hydrocodone abuse.

Hydrocodone abuse is widespread due to its euphoric and sedating effects; even so, snorting hydrocodone has many adverse consequences beyond those associated with substance abuse.

What Is Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone accounts for approximately 60% of all painkiller prescriptions in the US. Commonly prescribed for pain medication, such as a cough or moderate to severe pain, the drug produces similar effects to other common opioids. It is found in products like Lortab and Vicodin.

Hydrocodone works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. This slows down breathing rates and induces a relaxation within users that trigger the ‘reward system’ found within the brain, contributing to the high risk of addiction found for hydrocodone.

Due to its addictive qualities and rise in misuse, The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration changed the drug from a Scheduled III to Schedule II. Drugs in this category have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.’

Hydrocodone can be prescribed as both immediate and extended-release formulations, whether in the form of hydrocodone pills, tablets, capsules, or cough syrup.

Extended-release formulations mean that the drugs are intended to relieve moderate to severe pain over a long period. This is achieved through the pain relief medication released throughout the body on a much slower scale. In comparison, immediate-release drugs can relieve pain from four to six hours.

Most commonly, hydrocodone tablets are taken as oral medication. Snorting hydrocodone is a popular method when abusing the drug, as it quickly enters the bloodstream, so the effects are felt quicker. Other forms of abuse may be through injection of the liquid form or smoking crushed hydrocodone tablets.

It’s essential to recognize that any hydrocodone user can misuse the drug. This includes:

  • Consuming more hydrocodone than recommended
  • Using someone else’s prescription
  • Using the substance to achieve a high sense of relaxation

Snorting Hydrocodone

Those looking for a quick high from hydrocodone will crush it down into a fine powder so they can snort hydrocodone through the nose. This produces a short-lived but intense high, causing users to crave and take another dose soon after the first, contributing to the risk of drug abuse.

Misusing hydrocodone for as little as one week can cause physical addiction to the drug, meaning that users will likely experience withdrawal symptoms without the drug.

Some hydrocodone products contain acetaminophen, so those taking the drug will attempt to extract it through various methods. Extended-release tablets are the most likely form of hydrocodone to be abused through snorting. Crushing hydrocodone pills like these means that high doses of the opioid can be felt at once; however, misusing extended-release tablets causes significant dangers, such as increasing the risk of overdose.

Although people enjoy the fast and intense effects felt after crushing and snorting hydrocodone, the way that the drug is produced makes it extremely dangerous to snort. They are intended for oral consumption and slow digestion, a big contrast to snorting, which immediately hits the bloodstream through the nasal passages.

Effects of Snorting Hydrocodone

Drugs like hydrocodone are created to be released gradually into the body. Once consumed, they first enter the digestive system, which distributes the drug to the rest of the body.

When the drug is snorted, it is absorbed through mucous membranes of the throat, nose, and roof of the mouth. Here, it enters the bloodstream and is carried quickly to the brain. The effects can be felt two to fifteen minutes after use.

Instead of entering the digestive system, hydrocodone will reach the central nervous system and bind to opioid receptors much quicker.

Although snorting hydrocodone causes a faster and more intense reaction to the drug’s effects, snorting hydrocodone can result in distressing and painful complications.

Damage To The Nose

If someone snorts hydrocodone, they are at risk of long- and short-term damage to the nose. The tissue that lines our nasal passages is extremely thin and delicate. Therefore, snorting drugs irritates and damages the nasal tissue; this can cause discomfort, continuous runny nose, and nosebleeds.

If hydrocodone is snorted for a long time, the drug will eventually erode the nasal tissue. This can result in a hole in the nasal septum (between the nostrils) or at the roof of the mouth. This can cause difficulty breathing and eating and sometimes causes a whistling sound when people are attempting to breathe.

Snorting hydrocodone increases the risk of necrosis; this is dead tissue that can be found within the nose. Research has found that, as a result of snorting hydrocodone, 77% of people who attended treatment for hydrocodone addiction had developed active necrosis.

Other effects from snorting hydrocodone related to nasal insufflation include:

  • Nasal crusting
  • Facial pain or swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nosebleeds
  • Running nose
  • Septal perforation

Harm To The Throat and Lungs

Snorting hydrocodone can cause traces of hydrocodone to travel down the back of the nose; from here, it can drip down into the throat. Reaching the vocal cords can cause what is known as a ‘hoarse voice.’ If these drips reach the lungs and hit lung tissue, the reaction can worsen asthma and cause lung inflammation.

Typically, our nose hairs and mucous help protect the nose from any irritants; however, these can be damaged if someone is snorting hydrocodone. This allows the drug to reach the lungs, irritating the respiratory system, which can cause respiratory failure, weight loss, and difficulty breathing.

Spreading Disease

If you take hydrocodone by snorting it, you are likely crushing the drug on various objects and surfaces. These could be contaminated with irritants, toxins, and microorganisms. If these enter the body, they can risk causing damage to the nasal tissue, respiratory system, or throat.

Drug paraphernalia used for hydrocodone abuse, such as razor blades, papers, or shared surfaces, may be used by more than one person. This means that hydrocodone users are at risk of getting a disease from the different microorganisms encountered. Therefore people using the drug have an increased risk of disease transmission.

Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone is highly addictive, hence its recognition as a Scheduled II controlled substance. Due to its short-lived high, people taking the drug are encouraged to take more of it to prolong the desired effects. This can result in physical dependence and addiction to the drug.

Side Effects

The side effects that can be felt after taking hydrocodone may be experienced by someone who has been prescribed the drug and someone abusing it.

However, those abusing the drug are likely to feel the effects on a much higher level. Some side effects include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizzyness
  • Stomach pain
  • Diminished appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Aside from experiencing these adverse side effects, some hydrocodone products contain a medication that is toxic to the liver; acetaminophen. Therefore abusing drugs that have this drug can cause liver toxicity, damage, and in some cases, failure.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid abuse statistics in the US are incredibly high. A national survey found that around 9.7 million people reported abusing prescription medication in 2019. Therefore it is likely the majority of these people, if not all, experienced withdrawal symptoms.

Hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms are experienced when a person, who is physically dependent on the drug, suddenly tries to stop taking it. Some symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain

Addiction treatment offers a safe and comfortable environment to help ease and manage any withdrawal symptoms experienced.


Any misuse of opioid medications runs the risk of an opioid overdose. Opioid abuse is on the rise in the US, and a report found that hydrocodone accounted for 19,000 deaths in one year.

If someone is snorting hydrocodone, they are likely consuming large doses of the drug. This increases the risk of experiencing a hydrocodone overdose. Similarly, the risk of an overdose is only present if someone is misusing the drug.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • Size change in pupils
  • Breathing problems
  • Cold or blue skin
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable vomiting

If you believe you or someone else is experiencing an opioid overdose, it is essential to seek professional medical help immediately.

Signs That Someone Is Abusing Hydrocodone

Anyone who is snorting hydrocodone is likely abusing the drug. Hydrocodone is an addictive drug, so the need to feel an instant and quick high indicates signs of addiction. It causes a person to lose control over their life despite the negative consequences that may be occurring due to substance abuse. Some other symptoms that someone is abusing hydrocodone are:

  • A runny nose
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • A constant hoarse voice
  • Suffer from respiratory problems
  • Damage to nasal passages
  • Increased tolerance to hydrocodone

If you or someone you know are experiencing these signs, it may be time to seek help for a disorder. Help is always available to guide you in starting your road to recovery.

Getting Help for Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

Treatment for any opioid addiction typically starts with drug detox. It is recommended that you opt for a medical detox in a rehabilitation center for healthcare professionals to aid you in tapering off of the substance to support you with any hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms.

The next stage of substance abuse treatment consists of behavioral therapies to help work through the causes and teach coping mechanisms and skills to aid in cravings.

Addiction Treatment at Empowered Recovery

Addiction treatment at Empowered Recovery is run on a holistic level, offering a compassionate solution to a life-changing disease.

We understand that drug addiction differs for everyone and recognize this by offering evidence-based treatment options delivered by our top-tier medical experts. Some Treatment programs offered at Empowered Recovery include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Therapy
  • Trauma-focused Therapy
  • Complementary Therapy
  • Family Therapy

We are committed to working with you to overcome your substance abuse to live a happy and sober life. Contact us today to discuss treatment options.

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