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Snorting Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is one of the most prescribed opioid painkillers in the US, but also the subject of rampant misuse and addiction. Abusing opioids is destructive in any form, but snorting hydrocodone intranasally introduces unique effects that can be deadly. Learn the risks associated with snorting hydrocodone and the warning signs of this method of drug abuse.

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Hydrocodone Overview

Hydrocodone is a semisynthetic opioid similar to other opioids (i.e., morphine and codeine). It is frequently prescribed as a cough suppressant and for moderate pain (analgesic).

Hydrocodone is often prescribed in a combined format of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, namely with brand names Vicodin® and Lortab®.

Like other opioids, hydrocodone creates feelings of pain relief, euphoria, and powerful sedation. Because of these side effects, hydrocodone can easily be abused and lead to substance use disorder when not used as directed.

Hydrocodone Abuse and Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 60% of all painkiller prescriptions are for hydrocodone.

In 2014, hydrocodone was reclassified from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug, but that has not deterred people from obtaining and abusing it.

Why Would Someone Snort Hydrocodone?

Hydrocodone is typically taken orally by tablet in immediate-release or extended-release formulations. While both types can cause euphoria, individuals with hydrocodone addiction may favor the extended version for snorting through a practice called “dose dumping.”

Dose dumping involves taking extended-release drugs in a way that enters the body too quickly all at once to magnify the high.

Individuals with substance abuse issues may opt for the snorting method to intensify hydrocodone’s effect on their brains. By taking hydrocodone orally, the drug’s effects may take longer to kick in and be less intense. However, snorting hydrocodone comes with many dangers and risks.

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Effects (and Dangers) of Snorting Hydrocodone

Using hydrocodone by snorting not only intensifies its effects but can lead to dangerous health problems.

These users may experience unpleasant or worrying side effects and damage to their noses and sinuses. These negative side effects only worsen the existing risks of abusing hydrocodone.

Common short-term effects of snorting hydrocodone include:

  • Nasal crusting
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sinus congestion or runny nose
  • Dry mouth and sore throat
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Brain fog
  • Unpredictable mood changes
  • Worsened anxiety and/or paranoia
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping issues
  • Shakiness
  • Low appetite
  • Abdominal and back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Skin issues like rashes or itchiness
  • Urination problems

Common long-term effects of snorting hydrocodone include:

  • Nasal tissue necrosis or injury within the nasal passages
  • Holes or tearing of the nasal septum or palate (roof of the mouth)
  • Damage to the lower and upper respiratory system
  • Developing hypersensitivity pneumonitis (immune system disorder of the lungs)
  • Facial discomfort and swelling
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Possible exposure to fentanyl through illegally bought drugs
  • Liver damage, especially with combination products containing acetaminophen
  • Risk of overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Signs of Snorting Hydrocodone

Because snorting hydrocodone can increase the risk of opioid overdose, learning to spot the signs of snorting hydrocodone in yourself or a loved one can avoid tragedy. Some of these signs may also apply to signs of snorting other substances.

Common signs of abuse by snorting hydrocodone include:

  • Visible irritation or redness around the nose and nostrils
  • Suffering from chronic nasal congestion
  • Noticing white powder on their nose, hands, or clothes
  • Frequently having a runny nose, sniffing, or wiping their nose
  • Having tools to crush and snort the powder hydrocodone, such as mirrors, straws, and credit cards

Other signs of general hydrocodone abuse or opioid addiction in general include:

  • Obsessing over when you’ll next use hydrocodone
  • Going to extreme lengths to obtain hydrocodone
  • Having intense cravings for hydrocodone
  • Spending a lot of time recovering from intranasal hydrocodone use
  • Struggling to quit drug use, even when you want to
  • Experiencing hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms
  • Lying about or hiding evidence of snorting hydrocodone pills
  • Engaging in risky behavior or losing control of yourself while taking hydrocodone
  • Having cold skin or muscle weakness
  • Unexplained changes in body weight

Treatment for Hydrocodone Snorting Abuse and Addiction

The treatment for hydrocodone abuse and addiction is quite similar to the treatment for addiction to other prescription opioids. There are many treatment programs available for treating opioid abuse, depending on your unique situation and history.

Treatment Programs

When most people think of addiction treatment for prescription drugs, they think of inpatient or intensive outpatient programs. Both options offer things like one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and education resources to help people address their drug addiction and get back on their feet.

Inpatient treatment typically requires a residential stay for anywhere from a few days or weeks to a few months. Many addicts will not need an inpatient stay; individuals with severe addiction to multiple substances or who pose a risk to themselves may do best with inpatient treatment.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) do not include a residential stay and often require you to spend several hours a week for treatment. The advantage of IOPs is that the addict can go home and continue living life while ongoing substance abuse treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a substance abuse treatment approach that uses FDA-approved medications in conjunction with behavioral health counseling and support.

Common MAT prescriptions for hydrocodone addiction treatment include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone

MAT works in a few ways. Some drugs like Naltrexone work by blocking the receptors that cause pleasure from opioid drugs like hydrocodone. Other drugs like Buprenorphine are used to help manage hydrocodone withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The use of MAT has proven to help addicts from abusing prescription opioid drugs and remain substance-free even after treatment has concluded.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is the cornerstone of addiction treatment, either through one-on-one therapy or group therapy. While each type of therapy has different approaches, the overall goal is to address the root causes of addictive behaviors and build skills to deal with the triggers that lead to drug abuse.

Therapy can also help with maintaining sobriety by establishing strategies to deal with temptation and relapse. In addition, therapy can also help addicts identify possible pre-existing mental health conditions and lead to treatments that improve overall quality of life.

Common therapy types used in hydrocodone abuse treatment include:

Support Groups and Self-Help Groups

Support groups and self-help groups can act as a treatment or a supplement to existing treatment. Peers or group members typically lead self-help groups, while support groups are led by a mental health professional or community leader.

Common support groups and self-help groups for hydrocodone addiction include:

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Get Help for Problems With Hydrocodone Abuse

If you or a loved one has issues with abusing hydrocodone through snorting, now is the time to seek help. The dangers of snorting hydrocodone and the serious health risks associated with the practice can make getting treatment a life-saving endeavor.

Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist about your habits with pain relievers like hydrocodone and see what treatment center or program might best fit your needs.

If you don’t know where to start, check out SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call the helpline at 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) to learn what treatment options are available near you.

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FAQs About Snorting Hydrocodone

Why do people snort hydrocodone?

People snort hydrocodone in order to intensify the drug’s effects. By snorting drugs through the nose and the mucous membranes, the sedative effects can be much stronger and more dangerous.

The practice is sometimes referred to as dose dumping, which involves snorting the extended-release version of hydrocodone. Dose dumping can easily lead to accidental overdose, as the user experiences the full dosage all at once instead of spread out over several hours.

Why is it dangerous to snort hydrocodone?

Snorting hydrocodone can lead to serious conditions that include tearing of the septum and roof of the mouth, developing the immune disorder hypersensitivity pneumonitis damage, and the death of nasal tissues.

In the case of hydrocodone acetaminophen products, there is an increased risk of toxicity in the liver that can lead to liver damage and permanent damage. When snorting hydrocodone at a high dose, there is a serious risk of accidental overdose.

Can snorting hydrocodone cause an overdose more easily?

Yes. Snorting hydrocodone comes with the same risks as typical ingestion and then some because of how quickly the hydrocodone affects the brain.

Many addicts will choose to snort extended-release versions of the drug, which can cause immediate effects that are meant to be spread over the course of many hours.

What should I do for a hydrocodone overdose?

If you suspect a friend or family member is experiencing a hydrocodone overdose, call 911 immediately. In the meantime, stay with the person and monitor their breathing and symptoms. Having information like age, weight, medical history, and dosage taken will be helpful to medical staff when they arrive.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. Hydrocodone. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2019, October). https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/hydrocodone.pdf
  2. Hydrocodone: Uses, Side Effects & Dosage Guide. Drugs.com. (2023). https://www.drugs.com/hydrocodone.html
  3. Pathak, L. K., & Vijayaraghavan, V. (2016, July). Hydrocodone Snorting Leading to Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4900771/
  4. Seago, S., Hayek, A., Pruszynski, J., & Newman, M. G. (2016, July). Change in Prescription Habits After Federal Rescheduling of Hydrocodone Combination Products. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical Center). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4900766/
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2023, May 15). Hydrocodone. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a614045.html
  6. Watson, S. (2022, September 9). Hydrocodone vs. Oxycodone: The Difference Explained. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/difference-between-hydrocodone-and-oxycocodone

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