The Dangers and Risks of Snorting vs Smoking Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a prescription opioid painkiller that is intended for relief of moderate to severe pain.1 Many people use oxycodone safely for legitimate medical purposes as prescribed by a doctor; however, some people misuse this prescription opioid for its pleasurable effects.2,3

In some cases, individuals will crush oxycodone tablets and smoke or snort the powder to speed up the onset of and intensify these effects.3,4

What’s the Difference Between Snorting & Smoking Oxycodone?

In addition to pain relief, oxycodone and other opioids can cause a euphoric high that may lead some people to repeatedly misuse them.2

People often crush oxycodone tablets and snort or smoke the powder to feel the subjective effects quicker and more powerfully. The practice is especially popular with OxyContin (a popular brand of painkiller that contains oxycodone and is meant to release the drug slowly over many hours) as these methods bypass its extended-release feature and release the full dose of medication into the system at once.3  According to a study published in Postgraduate Medicine, 57–92% of people that abuse extended-release oxycodone tablets smoke or snort the powder.4

Inhaling oxycodone (whether smoking or snorting) carries a greater overdose risk than oral administration because it increases the concentration of the opioid in the blood. Since these methods cause a faster onset of the drug and a more intense experience, they may further solidify patterns of compulsive use and addiction to oxycodone.3,4

Both intranasal inhalation (snorting) and smoking have their own unique dangers as well.

Snorting opioids has been known to cause:4

  • Nasal pain.
  • Fungal infections.
  • Death of nasal, palatal, and sinus tissue.
  • Perforation (holes) in the nasal cavity and roof of the mouth.

Smoking opioids can cause:5-7

  • Wheezing.
  • Chronic coughing.
  • Diminished lung functioning.
  • Chronic bronchitis.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Shortness of breath.

Side Effects of Oxycodone Use

People may experience negative side effects even when using oxycodone as intended. Misusing oxycodone increases the likelihood that side effects will occur. Common side effects include:1,8

  • Dry mouth.
  • Insomnia.
  • Dizziness.
  • Constipation.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Itchiness.
  • Headaches.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Weakness.

Another potential effect of oxycodone is respiratory depression, or slowed, difficult breathing.8 Misusing this medication may result in severe respiratory depression that can lead to brain damage or death.2

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment & Recovery

Woman with doctor

 Treatment for oxycodone addiction typically begins with detox, which safely helps someone overcome their physical dependence on the drug. Withdrawal from opioids can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is not typically dangerous.9

While opioid withdrawal is seldom life-threatening, it is often very unpleasant. Medical detox ensures greater safety and comfort of those withdrawing from oxycodone and other opioids, allowing medical staff to monitor patients and administer medication or other care as needed.

However, detox without continued rehabilitation treatment does little to treat addiction.10

Fortunately, there are many behavioral therapies and pharmacotherapies are available to prevent cravings and help individuals change thought and behavioral patterns that drive them to misuse opioids.11,12 Rehabilitation can be performed in a variety of settings (e.g., inpatient addiction treatment, outpatient care, telehealth, etc.).

Treatment for an addiction to oxycodone should also address the physical health complications resulting from snorting and smoking addictive substances, including treatment for resulting lung disease, infections, and other serious health issues.10

Additionally, treatment should address any co-occurring disorders a patient may be suffering from. Research shows that rehabilitation is much more successful when a comprehensive approach is used, since addiction and other mental disorders frequently worsen one another.13,14

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please reach out to an admissions navigator at to learn about the care and treatment options offered at River Oaks.

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