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Opioids are involved in about 45% of drug overdose deaths in California and 70% of them in the U.S., according to, an online resource from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Oxycodone is one of those prescription opioids, along with codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone; heroin is a street drug that is classified as an opioid.  

The good news is that thanks to awareness, education, and calls for stricter protocols, California has some of the lowest prescribing rates of opioids in the country, according to NIDA. They also report that there has been a decrease in deaths involving prescription opioids.

Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in deaths from illicit versions, including heroin and fentanyl. Oftentimes overdoses and deaths occur because opioids are ingested with other substances such as alcohol and other drugs. There are also higher risks depending on the way that oxycodone is ingested — whether it is snorted, injected, or consumed by some other method. 

Dangers of Oral Doses of Oxycodone

Oxycodone in its prescription form is intended to be swallowed either through a tablet, a capsule or a liquid. It should never be taken unless it is prescribed by a doctor, and you should always follow the instructions from your healthcare provider and licensed pharmacist. 

That said, oxycodone is a highly addictive drug and when it is not managed properly by a doctor, it can become dangerous, no matter how it is consumed. According to NIDA, 75% of heroin users started on prescription drugs, whether they were prescribed by a doctor or self-prescribed and obtained illegally. 

When oxycodone is ingested with alcohol, it can also become a lethal drug. 

Eventually, swallowing oxycodone can lose its effectiveness over time, and users often seek other means to get the drug into their system with stronger and faster effects. Snorting, shooting, and smoking are three dangerous ways to use drugs, which we’ll explain next.

Dangers of Snorting Oxycodone 

People who snort prescription opiates that come in pill form, like oxycodone, Percocet, tramadol, or suboxone, have likely built up a tolerance to it, and they seek to get it into their bodies quicker and with a stronger effect. When someone snorts a drug, it bypasses the digestive system and goes straight into the bloodstream through blood vessels in your nose. 

Because snorting leads to a greater high, it also increases your risk for overdose and has additional negative side effects, including:

  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Headaches
  • Loss or distorted sense of smell
  • Mouth sores
  • Nose bleeds and sores
  • Pneumonia
  • Sleep disorders

Some people believe that snorting oxycodone is safer than injecting it with a needle, because there is no cross-contamination. This is false! If you share devices to snort drugs, you increase your risk for life-threatening infectious diseases including hepatitis C and HIV. A straw, rolled up dollar bill, or other device inserted into one person’s nose becomes contaminated and can be transferred from person to person. 

Never share drug paraphernalia. 

Dangers of Shooting or Injecting Oxycodone

The reasons that people choose to inject oxycodone are similar to the reasons that they choose to snort it: The drug gets into their systems faster, going directly into the bloodstream. 

The danger of injecting drugs is that the user receives the full effect of the drug at once. Oxycodone in its prescription tablet form is designed as an “extended release,” to offer comfort over a period of hours to people in pain. When it is injected, the user gets the full effect, which is highly dangerous (and addictive) and could lead to overdose.

Additionally, IV drug use comes with a lot of other risks, including:

  • Blood clots
  • Collapsed veins
  • Decreased blood circulation
  • Heart and cardiovascular infections
  • Infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV
  • Liver damage and failure 
  • Tissue damage

Anyone who has resorted to injecting or snorting prescription drugs has a problem and needs to seek help for prescription drug addiction treatment in California.

Dangers of Smoking Oxycodone

Another method that people use to get oxycodone quickly and strongly into their systems is crushing the drug and smoking it, sometimes straight and sometimes by mixing it with other substances such as tobacco or other narcotics. 

This is incredibly dangerous. 

Although the immediate effect of smoking drugs is stronger and faster, the effect doesn’t last as long as it does when it is consumed in other ways. That leads to more frequent use, which puts you at a higher risk for serious injury and death. 

In addition to the risk of overdose, smoking oxycodone can cause:

  • Brain damage (from oxygen deprivation)
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Emphysema and lung cancer
  • Headaches
  • Heart failure
  • Lung and respiratory tissue damage
  • Sleeplessness and sleep disorders
  • Stumbling, dizziness and loss of coordination 

Preventing Oxycodone Overdose

For someone who is addicted to oxycodone or any opioid, before putting themselves at risk for overdose, they have safe options to safely detox from oxycodone under the supervision of a medically trained staff. 

If you or anyone you know is snorting, smoking, shooting or abusing oxycodone, learn more about prescription drug addiction treatment in Orange County, California. You can call our help line at 714-547-5375 any time; drug addiction specialists are standing by and will keep your questions and conversation confidential.


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