Hydrocodone is an opioid painkiller that is legal for prescribed medical use. It is a Schedule II drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).1 Its scheduling indicates that while it has an important medical use, it also has a high potential for misuse and abuse.
Why Is Hydrocodone Addictive?
This medication relieves pain by binding to and activating the mu-opioid receptors in the central nervous system. This makes hydrocodone an extremely effective medication for those in need of pain relief, for example after surgery or injury. However, this same action at the opioid receptors not only decreases pain signaling but also has the potential to cause a feeling of euphoria, commonly referred to as a “high.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for a person to develop a tolerance to opioid medications, and they may find themselves taking greater and greater doses in order to feel the pain relief and/or euphoria they’ve become accustomed to. They may also become physically dependent, needing it simply to feel well enough to get through the day.2 This is why, in 2016, physicians were cautioned to adhere to new, stricter guidelines when prescribing opioids to patients.3 Liberal prescribing practices in the early 2000s contributed, in part, to the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic that began in the early 2000s,4 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 2 million people over 12 years of age in the U.S. suffer from an addiction to opioids like hydrocodone.5
Hydrocodone is designed to be taken orally; however, people who struggle with a compulsion to abuse to this painkiller may find ways to experience a more rapid and intense high from the drug. For some people, this means ingesting larger doses of the drug; other people may attempt to gain a greater high by altering the ways that they consume the drug. One method used to induce a high more rapidly is to crush and snort hydrocodone.
Why Is Snorting Hydrocodone Dangerous?
Hydrocodone is designed to be taken orally, where it can be released into the body in a slow and controlled manner. Crushing and snorting an opioid like hydrocodone disturbs the normal release of the drug and delivers it to the brain more rapidly, increasing the risks of harmful side effects, overdose, and death. It may also result in the hastened development of an opioid use disorder, or addiction.6,7