Dangers of Shooting Oxycodone, Demerol, and Dilaudid
What Happens When You Shoot Painkillers?
Injecting opioid substances can result in extreme harm, such as:
- Infection of the heart muscle.
- Lung infection.
- Rapid development of addiction.
- Transmission of infectious diseases due to needle-sharing.
Learn more about the risks and how to get help.
Pain is one of the most common experiences for humans and a top reason why people seek medical care. Pain is not just sensory or physical, but also emotional, cognitive, and potentially debilitating if left untreated because it is often associated with inflammation and tissue damage.
According to the American Chronic Pain Association, health situations that may warrant prescription pain medication include:
- Conditions involving acute pain symptoms from a recent injury.
- Chronic pain conditions lasting anywhere from three to six months.
- Pain flare-ups that require stronger medications to relieve episodes of severe pain.
- Ongoing pain symptoms that persist for most of the day.
Painkiller drugs, specifically opioids, are often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, bringing pain relief and helping a person to function normally. However, prescription opioids have an abuse and addiction potential that is even more pronounced when not taken as directed. Repeated use of painkillers over time usually leads to tolerance, a condition in which you need progressively larger amounts of the drug to maintain its initial effectiveness.
Abrupt reduction or abstinence of a painkiller drug leads to withdrawal, which can involve significantly unpleasant gastrointestinal problems, sweats and chills, pains and cramps, and a general sense of feeling bad (dysphoria). This experience is thought to be the reason that many people develop drug addiction because the distress caused by withdrawal increases their compulsion to use the painkiller (negative reinforcement).
The gradual development of a drug addiction can be thought of as a three-stage cycle:
- Withdrawal/negative effect
These stages worsen over time, becoming more intense, feeding into each other and ultimately leading to addiction.
Tampering with painkillers by crushing or heating of extended-release or controlled-release formulations for the purpose of smoking, snorting or “shooting up” (injection) causes rapid release of the medication throughout the body (dose dumping). A drug treatment center study found that 80% of prescription painkiller users tampered with drugs in such a way. While Demerol does not have a controlled release formulation on the market, both oxycodone and hydromorphone (the generic name for Dilaudid) do. The major concern with dose dumping is the risk of overdose and death from respiratory failure.
An intended effect of crushing or heating painkillers is to get maximum euphoric effects through snorting or shooting up. These methods cause the drugs to act immediately when compared to swallowing a tablet or capsule.
An unintended effect of manipulating a painkiller drug is possible overdose and death. An infection such as endocarditis, a heart-muscle infection, is also a risk. Since many painkiller drugs in tablet or capsule form contain talc, there is additional risk of developing a lung infection such as pulmonary granulomas. Shooting up of tampered painkillers that interferes with blood supply to a limb can cause tissue death (tissue necrosis), which can sometimes require amputation of the limb.
Painkiller drugs are often prescribed to treat conditions where temporary or long-term pain symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. While many drug addictions start out as recreational activities that develop into ongoing use, addiction to painkillers can also happen from following a prescribed medication regimen. To compound the problem of prescription drug abuse, many medications intended for prescription use are “diverted” for trade on an illicit market, which is why some of these powerful painkillers can also be purchased on the street.
According to Harvard Health Publications, between the years 2004 and 2008, the number of emergency-room visits resulting from overuse of painkiller drugs increased by 111%.
Many of these cases involved “shooting up” or intravenous (IV) use, which greatly increases the likelihood of addiction. Like most other drug categories, there are several different painkiller drugs on the market, some legal and some illegal. Among the painkillers available for treatment of pain are the following:
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin)
- Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Sublimaze)
- Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone in buprenorphine-naloxone combination)
- Tramadol (Ultram)
Painkillers and IV Use
Drugs designed to relieve pain symptoms come from both legal and illegal sources. A significant different between prescription and street drugs has to do with knowing what’s actually in a particular dose. Street-based IV drugs are more oftentimes than not mixed with unknown additive agents that can vary in their effects on the body. Prescription drugs usually contain a pure concentration of each drug type combined with other known active ingredients.
In either case, once injected into the bloodstream, all opioid drugs interact with opioid receptors throughout the nervous system. Ultimately, the activation of these receptors is responsible for the “feel good” rush elicited throughout the body. This interaction with the brain’s opioid receptors is able to occur, because painkiller drugs chemical resemble the body’s natural endorphins. In essence, synthetic opioid painkillers are designed to mimic our naturally occurring “feel good” chemicals.
Effects of Shooting Painkillers
Shooting painkillers produces a more rapid response than taking it orally as a pill or in liquid form because absorption of the drug occurs much faster. Onset of the drug’s action can be as quick as 15-30 seconds compared to taking the drug by mouth (20-30 minutes). This rate is nearly 10 times faster than snorting or popping a pill.
The “bioavailability” of an intravenously administered drug is also much greater than those taken orally or through other non-IV routes. Shooting up provides more of the drug directly to the brain than an oral dose does because the stomach, intestine, and liver may degrade or filter out some of the drug before it reaches the brain.
Shooting an extended- or controlled-release painkiller drug also gives a more intense high than taking the drug orally because the full amount of drug intended for a gradual and timed release will be available at once.
Effects of IV drug use may cause the following:
- Rapid overdose (rapid rate of absorption leaves little time to respond to unexpected reaction or overdose)
- Hepatitis and HIV-AIDS (from non-sterile injection techniques)
- Heart infection (endocarditis)
- Lung infection (such as pulmonary granulomas caused by a poorly filtered drug)
- Blood clots (from poor dissolving methods of solution or secondary to general vascular inflammation)
- Danger of accidental injection into an artery (for example, the femoral vein and femoral artery are very close to each other)
- Skin infection at the drug-injection site or collapse of a vein
- Death (necrosis) of arm or leg tissue requiring amputation (injected drug interferes with blood circulation to a limb)
While the high may be quicker and more pleasurable, repeated injections in the same spots can lead to health complications as skin inflammation or infection and damage to the veins. Shooting street-based painkillers also introduces unknown additive materials into the body. Over time, these additives can cause considerable damage to the body’s cardiovascular system as well as to the cerebrovascular system (blood vessels inside the brain). Repeated needle use can also leave a person open to contracting viral diseases like hepatitis and HIV-AIDS, particularly when needles are shared in a group.
Dangers of Shooting Oxycodone
Dangers of Shooting Demerol
Dangers of Shooting Dilaudid
Opioid Tolerance, Withdrawal, and Overdose
As opioid tolerance levels increase, the likelihood of withdrawal effects also increases since it takes more and more of the drug to feel the desired effects. Some of the withdrawal effects that come from abusing drugs like oxycodone, Demerol and Dilaudid include:
- Bone or muscle pain.
- Flu-type symptoms (fever, runny nose, etc.)
- Gastrointestinal distress.
Opioid tolerance levels can increase rapidly when they are abused intravenously. As tolerance mounts, the associated withdrawal effects may also become more severe. This is part of the reason why it’s so hard to stop using prescription painkiller drugs. People with high tolerance levels also tend to inject higher doses of the drug over time as the body’s cravings become overwhelming. This practice greatly increases the likelihood that a person will overdose on the drug.
A person who has overdosed on painkillers can experience a wide range of symptoms depending on their overall health condition and the length of time they’ve been using. Some of the symptoms experienced may include:
- Cold, clammy feel to the skin.
- Weak muscles.
- Slow heartbeat.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Difficulty breathing.
Painkiller Drug Abuse Statistics
The abuse of painkillers appears to be a growing problem in the United States that affects people of all ages and walks of life. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2008 show the impact that painkiller abuse has had on the country as a whole:
- Over 12 million adults and teenagers reported using prescription painkillers for recreational purposes.
- Deaths related to overdosing increased by threefold over a 20-year period with as many as 14,800 deaths within 2008 alone.
- Between the years 2003 and 2008, emergency room visits more than doubled from 250,000 a year to 500,000 a year.
- The abuse of painkiller drugs carries an annual cost of $72.5 billion per year within the health care system.
Getting Help for Shooting Painkillers
Treatment for painkiller addiction begins with screening and treatment of medical complications from IV drug use. A referral to inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment will follow, usually for a period of 30-90 days, helping a person to deal with health issues associated with drug use, addictive cravings, and any co-occurring mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders that commonly accompany addiction. Highly skilled medical and addiction professionals will take care of you or your loved one in the treatment of these conditions, with referrals for other appropriate treatment if needed.
Treatment of medical complications: Many of the medical complications associated with painkiller addiction are due to the use of needles. Among these medical conditions and complications are:
- Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis C.
- HIV infection.
- Heart infection (endocarditis).
- Blood clots in the veins (thrombosis).
- Kidney (renal) problems.
Detoxification: The goals of medically supervised detox are to:
- Eliminate the drug from the body.
- Rid the body of the acute physiological dependence on painkillers.
- Treat and diminish the pain and discomfort of withdrawal.
- Identify and begin to treat the medical problems.
- Begin to educate the person about issues related to his or her health.
Medications: Treatment of withdrawal symptoms may include some of the following medication options:
- Buprenorphine (Subutex)
- Suboxone (buprenorphine & naloxone)
- Mood-stabilizing drugs
Traditional Addiction Treatment
For people who need ongoing treatment for medical complications, inpatient addiction treatment may be the best option to ensure you get the medical attention you need. Inpatient treatment can help even if you are not sure if you want to recover (ambivalence). If there is risk of harming yourself, you will need the kind of help and close attention which can best be given in a residential setting. If a lack of support at home or an unstable living situation is an issue, residential treatment programs provide a safe place to recover.
Traditional inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment services emphasize individual and group therapy to address underlying issues of addiction and to instill hope and a sense that you are not alone. Group therapy will also enable you to see that you have the inner strength to fight the addiction, and will challenge those areas of life where you may need to accept responsibility for the past. This is facilitated through the sharing of your drug-use history.
Behavioral interventions will help motivate and train you to build on successes achieved in early recovery while teaching you the skills you need to remain drug-free. Nutrition and exercise will be emphasized in most traditional addiction treatment programs. The participation of family and significant others will be utilized if possible to help heal everyone affected by your addiction.
Attendance at 12-step meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) helps with the spiritual, non-religious dimensions of addiction, addressing questions of meaning and purpose in life while building a network of healthy relationships.
Outpatient addiction treatment is an option for people who do not have medical complications requiring residential care or hospitalization. For those who have a good support system at home or in the community, outpatient treatment provides the opportunity to continue living at home and working or finding work while attending a day or evening treatment program.
Luxury and Executive Rehab
These settings provide treatment along with optional and alternative treatments for addiction in luxurious surroundings meant to give you the best of what life has to offer by way of comfort, space, food, and recreational activities.
Alternative therapies may include yoga, massage, art and music therapy, psychodrama, aromatherapy, and horse (equine) therapy. Although many of these alternative treatments are not evidence-based and may treat symptoms associated with addiction, they do not replace traditional addiction treatment.
Executive rehab is oriented towards the executive professional person who needs to continue working to some degree during his or her addiction treatment. It emphasizes privacy and facilitates access to the professional world while being in treatment. Additionally, the therapeutic interaction is often one on one rather than group-oriented.
Stop Shooting and Get Healthy
If you’d like to stop shooting drugs of any kind, contact us today at 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers?. We can connect you with the best exclusive treatment center for your individual needs to help you achieve long-term sobriety.
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