At its simplest definition, a route of drug administration is a method in which a drug is taken into the body. It differs from the point at which the drug interacts and affects an individual though. This is typically in the brain and various internal transportation processes have to occur beforehand for the chemical to get there. Routes of drug administration can be split up into three categories: topical, enteral and parenteral. Topical administration is a local effect where the drug is applied directly to the area that it is needed. When it comes to illicit drugs, this includes smoking and snorting. Enteral routes of drug administration involve the digestive tract and involve orally taking the drug or using a suppository. Parental routes make use of other internal pathways, such as blood vessels. This category covers the various types of injections (subcutaneous, intravenous and intramuscular) commonly associated with illicit drug use.
As one of the most common routes of drug administration, smoking encapsulates tobacco, marijuana, opium, heroin, cocaine and various other substances. Whenever someone draws in on a cigarette, the smoke goes to the lungs and is then rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. This makes it one of the fastest ways for someone to experience a high as the chemicals are transferred to the necessary bodily receptors in seconds.
There are several side effects to smoking which can pose significant risks to the smoker’s health, regardless of the drug involved. An individual who smokes tobacco, marijuana, opium or heroin has a higher chance of experiencing the following:
* Heart disease
* Mouth, throat and lung cancer
* Heart attacks and strokes
* Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
* High blood pressure (hypertension)
* Bacterial pneumonia and other lung infections
Drugs, such as cannabis and crack, pose greater risks than tobacco to a smoker primarily because they are designed to be inhaled in order for a high to be experienced. In standard cigarettes, the smoke does not necessarily need to enter the lungs and the majority of the above effects can be eliminated.
The snorting of drugs (also called insufflation) is conducted mostly by users of tobacco, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines. Around 30 to 60% of the snorted chemicals will enter the bloodstream through the mucus membrane in the nose. The rest is then swallowed and moves down to the stomach where it finally reaches the blood. In general, the high is experienced within about 15 minutes from the time of snorting.
There are several health risks associated with insufflating drugs. Most famously, drugs such as cocaine have been known to damage the inside lining of the nostrils, damaging the nasal cavity and even destroying the septum, the wall of cartilage between the two nostrils. As well as this, sharing bank notes, straws or pens to snort drugs can result in the spreading of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV. Other potential dangers also exist, but these vary depending on the drug being taken.
One of the simplest ways of taking drugs is through the mouth and allows the drugs to move onto the stomach where they are absorbed by the stomach lining and then enter the bloodstream. The most common drugs to be taken in this way are alcohol, marijuana, opium, amphetamines, ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms. Swallowing is one of the safest ways to take drugs for several reasons. Firstly, the substance will be slowly absorbed through the stomach lining resulting in effects which are less extreme and therefore less dangerous. Secondly, an individual’s digestive system is designed to induce vomiting if that person ingests anything risky. There have, however, been cases of people dying from swallowing cocaine, showing that there are still some dangers present with this particular route of administration.
One of the riskier methods of drug intake is the use of suppositories where the substance is absorbed through the mucus membrane in the rectum. This is not a typical method of drug administration, although water-soluble drugs such as speed, ecstasy and cocaine have been known to be taken in this way.
This activity can be very risky, especially since the mucus membranes around the rectum are very sensitive. If the substance taken is too acidic or caustic, it can burn the lining causing irreparable damage. Additionally, inserting anything into the anus can result in the lower colon being perforated which can then lead to a range of symptoms including death.
This route of administration is a recent development in the drug scene and involves a syringe full of an illicit substance being injected directly into the blood stream. This can be done in three different ways:
* Subcutaneous Injections: Directly into the soft tissue just beneath the skin.
* Intravenous Injections: Directly into a vein found under the surface of the skin.
* Intramuscular Injections: Directly into a muscle found deeper in the body.
This is one of the more popular methods of drug use as the full effects are felt almost immediately, typically within 3 to 5 seconds. It also bypasses many of the body’s defenses and delivers more of the drug to the brain. This is why injecting illicit substances is one of the more dangerous routes of administration as substances which would have normally been rejected by the stomach or blocked by the skin can enter into the bloodstream without any trouble. This can then lead to the following dangers:
* Increased chance of infection due to contaminated needles or drugs. Those who share syringes also run the risk of spreading blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis.
* Scarring of the veins. This is caused by blunt syringes and can lead to the vein collapsing.
* Arterial damage at the injection site, which can lead to hemorrhaging, distal ischemia, gangrene, endarteritis and thrombosis.
There is also an increased chance of addiction for those who take drugs via injections. This is because the heightened feelings that they experience may lead them to come back and repeat the action simply to relive the previous emotions.