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Snorting and Injecting Oxycodone: Route-Specific Risks of Oxy Misuse

Oxycodone is a strong prescription opioid drug used to manage severe pain.1 Due in part to their rewarding or reinforcing drug effects, opioids like oxycodone pose a significant risk of misuse, abuse, and addiction.1

Those who misuse oxycodone, including extended-release formulations like OxyContin, may sometimes chew, crush, or dissolve the tablets before use—orally, nasally, or intravenously—in attempts to experience more rapid drug effects; however, such intentional misuse can increase the risk of overdose and death.1 Taking oxycodone, especially without a prescription or in ways other than prescribed can have unintended effects and pose significant health risks. If this or other types of compulsive oxycodone misuse is negatively impacting your life, help is available. Learn more about the risks of injecting and snorting oxycodone.

What Is Oxycodone?

Oxycodone is an opioid painkiller widely prescribed under brand names that include OxyContin, Percocet, and Percodan.2 OxyContin is a long-acting, extended-release formulation of the drug used in the treatment of severe pain.1

Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid drug manufactured using thebaine—one of several opiate alkaloid precursors that derive from the opium poppy plant.3 Long-acting formulations such as OxyContin are often reserved for individuals who have chronic conditions contributing to high levels of pain. These may include situations requiring:1

  • Around-the-clock pain management.
  • Long-term opioid therapy.
  • Analgesia for which alternative treatment options are ineffective.

There is a high risk of misuse and addiction with Schedule II controlled substances like oxycodone.1  Similar to other opioids, oxycodone may cause life-threatening respiratory depression.4 The relatively high drug content in extended-release opioids such as OxyContin can add to the risk of adverse effects of misuse.1

Oxycodone Side Effects

Oxycodone use is associated with several adverse effects. The number of effects and their intensity may vary from one patient experience to another. A few potential side effects of oxycodone use include:4

  • Sedation and drowsiness.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sweating.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Lowered blood pressure.
  • Slowed heart rate.
  • Dizziness.
  • Respiratory depression.

Crushing Oxycodone

People sometimes crush oxycodone tablets to then be insufflated or snorted through the nasal passages, which can be harmful to your nasal cavity. Crushed oxycodone is also sometimes then dissolved in water and injected via a needle, directly into the veins.2

Intentionally tampering with the controlled-release dosing of extended-release formulations of oxycodone such as OxyContin can cause an immediate, uncontrolled release of the full dose opioid—greatly increasing the risk of a potentially fatal overdose.5 In this manner, crushing pills for injecting or snorting OxyContin may lead to various medical complications.5

Snorting Oxycodone

What happens if you snort oxycodone? People who abuse oxycodone may first grind up the tablets into a fine powder to then be inhaled nasally or snorted. Snorting oxy, or insufflating oxy, allows for the bypassing of the sustained-release feature of certain long-acting formulations, resulting in uncontrolled delivery of the drug that puts individuals at an increased risk of overdose.1,6  In bypassing first pass liver metabolism, snorting even immediate release forms of oxycodone could facilitate more rapid drug effects than intended oral routes, leading to a more intense high.1,8 However, when using the snorting method of ingestion, irritation of the nasal mucosa and damage to the nasal septum may occur, as well as soft palate and sinus necrosis.7

Injecting Oxycodone

Injecting oxycodone, or any other drug, comes with dangerous health-related possibilities from using needles. Bloodborne infections that may arise by using dirty needles or sharing needles may include:10

  • Hepatitis.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Bacterial infections.
  • Fungal infections.

Dangers of Oxycodone Misuse

Because oxycodone is an opioid, it is important to understand some of the adverse consequences associated with their use and misuse. In addition to the aforementioned effects of snorting oxycodone or injecting oxycodone, some additional health risks of misusing opioids via unintended routes and otherwise include the following.7

  • Dry mouth and nasal cavity due to lack of mucous secretions
  • Decreased gastrointestinal activity possibly leading to severe constipation
  • Damaged veins from injecting the drug
  • Tetanus and Clostridium botulinum infections from injecting opioids, as well as the possibility of obtaining bacterial endocarditis, hepatitis, and HIV infection
  • Damaged nasal cavity from snorting opioids

Oxycodone Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is living with an oxycodone addiction, know that treatment is available. Compulsive oxycodone misuse can continue to affect your relationships, work, and health. Treatment is different for everyone, depending on your personal needs and circumstances. However, there are many successful options for treating drug addiction in a rehab near you. Some of these include:11

  • Medications for opioid use disorder such as buprenorphine and methadone.
  • A combination of evidence-based behavioral therapies.
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • Long-term follow-up or continuing care (i.e., aftercare) for relapse prevention and sustained recovery.

In many cases of opioid addiction treatment, a medical detox period may be the first step to treatment. Withdrawal from oxycodone may be uncomfortable but can be made less so with pharmacological intervention and medical support. Medically supervised detoxification includes being monitored by professionals so they may administer medications, if needed, to assist you in a more comfortable withdrawal stage.11

Inpatient or residential treatment settings can be beneficial for any patient needing around-the-clock care and support.11 Outpatient care is available for those who may not need around-the-clock care but still need peer support and therapy as well as continued contact with their health counselor.11

There are several types of evidence based behavioral therapies typically offered in treatment. Some of these available therapies include:11

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize and cope with situations where they are likely to use drugs.
  • Multidimensional family therapy, which is developed for adolescents and addresses a variety of influences on drug use patterns.
  • Motivational interviewing encourages a person’s readiness to change their behavior.
  • Contingency management or motivational incentives use positive reinforcement, and sometimes tangible rewards, to encourages abstinence and continued recovery progress.

Paying for Oxycodone Addiction Rehab

Paying for treatment may be a stressful topic. Rehab should not be a financial burden. Many insurances cover most or all of treatment, but even if you do not have insurance coverage, there are always other ways to pay without stopping you from getting the treatment you need. Some people may take advantage of government and state-funded programs, financing, scholarships, loans, or community support to help with the costs of rehab. If you would like more information about oxycodone addiction treatment options available in your area, contact AAC’s helpful admissions navigators at for a free, private consultation today.

If you have insurance you can check to see how much treatment they may cover by completing the form below.

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