Drugs That Are Taken Orally

prescription pills taken orally are just one way that addicts ingest illicit drugsMost drugs, illicit and otherwise, can be taken orally.

This method of intake is often not the preferred method when it comes to recreational use due to the fact that it takes much longer for the high to kick in when a drug is administered this way. However, it’s very common with “club drugs,” such as MDMA (ecstasy) and GHB, as well as prescription drugs obtained for recreational use and certain hallucinogens.

Taking a drug orally requires that substance to pass through the stomach and be absorbed into the blood via the intestines before it can be transported to the brain. This means that it takes significantly longer for a swallowed drug to start producing effects than it does with other methods such as snorting, injecting, or smoking. The drug also becomes more spread out in the system rather than arriving all at once, causing the high to last much longer but also eliminating any possibility of experiencing a “rush” – an intense euphoric high.

Drugs that can be taken orally include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Ecstasy
  • GHB
  • LSD (acid)
  • Mescaline
  • Psilocybin mushrooms
  • Salvia
  • Rohypnol
  • PCP
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription drugs

Taking drugs orally is often thought of as a safer method of intake, especially when it comes to prescription drugs.

However, there are unique dangers associated with taking recreational drugs this way, and it does not protect from long-term health effects or overdose.

Health Issues and Dangers

woman reading information about the dangers and health issues with taking drugs orallyThe problem with taking drugs orally is that it makes the process of the high rather unpredictable. There are many factors that contribute to how intense of a high a person experiences from a single dose and how long it will last. These include body weight, gender, age, tolerance to the drug, and genetic factors. If taken orally, individuals also have to consider what they’ve eaten that day. A drug swallowed will behave differently on an empty stomach than it will on a full stomach. Body weight and fat content also have more of an impact. Even different types of foods can impact the behavior of an oral drug.

The problem with this is that inexperienced users will think that they haven’t taken a high enough dose to get high after waiting for a half=hour or so, when in fact the drug is simply taking longer than usual to kick in. They’ll then take more of the drug, and after a couple hours, there is twice the amount of the substance in their system. This can lead to a dangerous overdose, especially when it comes to prescription opioids or stimulants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Addiction, 47,055 people in the US died from a drug overdose in 2014. Over 40 percent of those were from prescription opioids.

Drugs taken orally can also be hard on the stomach and intestines. Stimulants in particular can result in ulcers and intestinal bleeding. Taking too much, especially in the case of alcohol, can also put a lot of stress on the liver. Enough of this can lead to issues like alcoholic hepatitis and liver damage, eventually ending in liver failure.

Taking drugs orally is not safe and can lead to addiction just like any other intake method. It’s important to seek professional treatment as soon as possible if an addiction is suspected.

Most drugs, both prescription and illicit, are consumed orally. For the most part, oral consumption involves swallowing the substance, generally in liquid or pill form, and the substance is then digested and released into the bloodstream. However, other methods of oral consumption include dissolving the drug in the mouth, under the tongue or behind the lips, and the mouth’s mucous membranes then release the substance into the blood. Inhaling a drug, such as by smoking, bagging, or vaping, is also considered oral consumption. Generally, though, the term oral consumption refers to drugs that are absorbed through the stomach and small intestine and then metabolized by the liver.

How does time-release technology work on prescription pills?

Pills, tablets, and capsules for many major prescription medicines, including painkillers like OxyContin, contain additives that help the medicine release slowly into the body. This means that potent medicines, like opioid painkillers, can be taken once or twice per day, rather than every 4-6 hours. Without additives changing how the medication is released in the body, most prescription medicines begin to affect the person within 15-30 minutes.

There are two basic types of timed-release medicines:

  • Delayed-release: These drugs use special coatings so stomach acid does not dissolve the medicine, and it is not absorbed through the stomach. Instead, the medicine begins to break down in the small intestine and is released primarily after being metabolized by the liver.
  • Extended-release: These medicines take advantage of the stomach’s digestive process, but additives in the drug slow down digestion, so the medicine is released in a controlled, timed fashion into the blood.

It is important to know that delayed-release medications and extended-release medications are very different and should not be used interchangeably. Ask a doctor for more information about the difference, especially with medicines you are currently prescribed.

What happens if you crush painkillers before consuming them?

When a pill or capsule is crushed into powder before consumption, any additives used to time the release of the drug will be bypassed. The drug rapidly acts on the body, usually within 5-10 minutes if it is still consumed orally. For medicines that do not have extended-release or delayed-release additives, this may be less dangerous; however, drugs like painkillers can cause the person to get high, even when they are consumed orally and digested as directed. Drugs like OxyContin contain a large dose of opioid painkiller, and when crushed, the entire dose hits the body and brain at once; this is very dangerous and can cause an overdose, leading to death.

Why is it recommended to take prescription medications during mealtimes?

Some prescription medicines should be taken with food, while some specifically note that the medicine should be taken on an empty stomach. This has to do with how the medicine is formulated to become available to the body. For example, some medicines must be absorbed through the stomach lining or small intestine with no interference; other medicines may upset the stomach, so eating before taking the medicine reduces the potential for nausea or ulcers. Sometimes, a medicine needs to be taken with food because the body must begin the digestive process, and the interaction of gastric juices and the medicine helps the drug absorb into the body more effectively.

How dangerous is it to consume acetaminophen?

Consuming moderate doses of acetaminophen to treat pain from sore muscles, a cold, or a headache as needed is fine. However, it is possible to consume too much acetaminophen, and that can be dangerous. The recommended acetaminophen dose for adults in one 24-hour period is 3 grams, or 3,000 mg; if a person takes more than that, the body is not able to process the substance rapidly enough, and the person can suffer from drug poisoning. Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage. The risk of liver damage increases if the person consumes alcohol or other drugs that act on the liver while also taking medicines containing acetaminophen.

Symptoms of acetaminophen poisoning include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling ill
  • Poor appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mental confusion or cognitive problems

Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter pain reliever that is found in a variety of medicines, such as Tylenol, cold and flu medicines, and even prescription medications like Percocet and Vicodin. It is important to read labels for any over-the-counter medicines to keep track of how much acetaminophen is being consumed and speak with a doctor about potential acetaminophen in prescription medicines.

What drugs do the most damage to the digestive system?

Many drugs can damage the digestive system, including the stomach, intestine, and liver; however, consuming large, nonmedical amounts of a substance is more likely to cause damage to the digestive system than taking a medicine as prescribed. As always, keep the prescribing physician informed of side effects like nausea or abdominal pain.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), substances that harm the digestive system the most include:

  • Prescription opiates
  • Nicotine
  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Amphetamines like MDMA and ecstasy
  • GHB
  • Cocaine

Recreational and prescription drugs are associated with higher rates of stomach cancer, rectal cancer, colitis, and other issues. Some of these substances include alcohol and synthetic drugs. Drugs that are consumed orally and digested to get into the bloodstream are more likely to harm the digestive system than drugs that are snorted, smoked, or injected.

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