Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opiate analgesic derived from the opium poppy. It comes in both regular and time-release formulas and is used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. Like other opiates, oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and addiction. According to the Reuters Health, experimenting with oxycodone during adolescence is particularly damaging because it predisposes the developing brain to addiction later in life. Understanding the different ways that adolescents take oxycodone allows parents and caregivers to recognize the signs of abuse and prevent unnecessary harm.
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Oxycodone pills and tablets are meant to be taken by mouth. This is the most common route of administration among novice abusers of the drug and is generally considered less harmful than other methods of use. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, time-release oxycodone tablets like OxyContin are sometimes crushed or chewed to overcome the time-release mechanism, resulting in a more intense high. Because this method releases large amounts of the drug into the bloodstream at once, it is more likely to lead to overdose and other complications than swallowing the medication whole.
As with the oral method, oxycodone tablets are sometimes crushed and administered through the nose in a method known as "snorting." The goal of snorting is to bypass the digestive tract to feel the drug’s effects more quickly. Intranasal use is generally considered more dangerous than oral administration due to its ability to cause rapid onset of effects. Oxycodone and other drugs with a time-release mechanism are even more dangerous when taken intranasally and can easily cause death in inexperienced users.
Rectal use of oxycodone, also known as “plugging,” is an increasingly popular way to abuse the drug. For this method, users melt down oxycodone tablets, dissolve them in water or another liquid and administer the solution through the rectum using a suppository, enema or similar device. While absorption rates are similar to oral ingestion, rectal administration allows users to avoid some of the digestive upset commonly caused by opiates.
Oxycodone is sometimes dissolved into a solution and injected into muscles or veins. Because it puts the drug directly into the bloodstream, intravenous use is considered the most highly addictive and dangerous method of administration for adolescents and other users. Injection of any drug carries its own risks, such as infection with life-threatening microbes, gangrene and sepsis. According to Merck, injecting pills and tablets containing talc and other fillers can result in permanent heart and lung damage. Adolescents who share needles also put themselves at risk for contracting hepatitis C, HIV and other incurable diseases.