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The Dangers Of “Plugging” Drugs And Rectal Drug Administration

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

Medically reviewed by

David Hunter, MA.Ed, LPC

January 23, 2019

One of the taboo and less popular ways of drug abuse is rectal administration. Though not discussed in the mainstream as much as other ways such as oral or intravenous use, rectal administration (plugging) is dangerous and frequent in use.

Why Would Someone Rectally Administer And “Plug” Drugs?

Traditionally, any medications rectally administered will be distributed quickly and more efficiently throughout the body than if administered in a different way. However, rectal administration also means the medication will have a shorter peak time and a shorter duration. For illicit drugs taken this way, the same is true. The rapid onset prompts those affected by substance abuse to use this method, despite any possible negative consequences.

Some drugs produce undesirable effects with an oral application. With rectal administration, a person who typically feels nauseous from taking a certain substance orally may be able to avoid that feeling. A person may also want to experience the “high” more quickly in certain situations. For example, a person may seek social competence and emotional awareness associated with MDMA when at social gatherings, and may want to produce the effects of it more quickly than usual. Or a person who wants the relaxed and calm feelings associated with alcohol may want to orally administer it to have the effects of it while not emitting the smell on his breath.

This is a trend becoming more and more popular with teens as a way to get the desired effects while hiding (at least for a while) the evidence of abuse. Whatever the reason a person may rectally abuse substances, there are blatant side effects ranging from mild to severe.

Possible Side Effects Of “Plugging” Drugs

Rectal administration of illicit substances may come with multiple negative side effects. This is especially true because the same caution is often not exercised with administering illicit substances as would be with prescription medications.

While prescribed medications are taken rectally involve proper lubrication and a sterile syringe or applicator, those afflicted with substance abuse may not bother with these steps, causing harm to the rectal tissues and membranes. Not using sterile applicators or proper lubrication may lead to infection. Further, rectal administration may be particularly dangerous for people who have certain pre-existing conditions, including:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Any anorectal disease
  • Low amount of platelets in the blood
  • Poor blood circulation

Also, it is important to remember that damaging the anal and rectal tissues (a possible side effect) may present other risks. For example, damaged rectal tissues could result in increased risk of protracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) for any persons engaging in anal sex. The chemical makeup of illicit substances is harsh on the body and may cause extensive damage to the intestines when a person repeatedly exposes the rectum to such use.

In addition, some people may mistakenly believe that it is safer to take drugs through rectal administration reasoning that this directs drugs to the bloodstream and completely bypasses the digestive system. This is not true. The body filters drugs out of the digestive system by utilizing the liver. In other words, even if drugs are rectally administered and enter the bloodstream first, they will undergo the same filtering process in the body at a rapid rate. Because of this, the “high” will wear off more quickly, too.

One of the largest dangers with rectal substance abuse is that the “high” both quickly hits a person and quickly fades. The effects of the substance may wear away before the substance has actually left a person’s system. As a result, the person will continue taking consecutive doses, increasing the risk of overdose. In extreme cases, the results of this pattern can be fatal.

Finally, rectally administering substances can be potentially dangerous because a person needs far less of anything rectally administered than administered by other avenues. Since the drug will directly enter the bloodstream, a much smaller dosage is required to achieve the same high. Not every person abusing substances may be aware of this, and thereby put themselves further at risk for overdose.

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Overdose From “Plugging” And Substance Abuse Treatment

Due to the high potential of overdose tied to the quick onset of rectal administration of substances, it is important to know the possibilities available for overdose reversal. In emergency situations, naloxone or other overdose reversal medications may be administered to buy time to seek further medical treatment. Treating substance abuse goes further than targeting a single instance, though.

Treatment is available for all substance abuse types, and there are many methods. Medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling are a few of them. Recovery may take place in an inpatient program held in a facility, such as a hospital or rehabilitation center. Patients who do not require extensive treatment may be treated with an outpatient process, pulling on support from home.

In any treatment situation, a person should have access to all options available to him. When deciding on a recovery plan, many factors influence the final decision, including funding, cost, facility location, the degree of abuse, health needs, any other disorders, and amount of support. Access to resources and professional information is key to a comprehensive treatment plan.

Seeking The Help You Deserve

Substance abuse is a disorder which plagues many people every year. If you are suffering, or if you know someone struggling with it, do not despair. You can find the help you deserve and get a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. If you contact us today at, we won’t just give you treatment information. We will listen to all of your concerns, help you design a recovery plan that meets your individual needs, and get you in touch with the resources to get started.

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