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Smoking Oxycodone: Effects And Risks

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 27, 2019

People who struggle with oxycodone abuse may smoke the substance for an increased high. Smoking oxycodone can lead to addiction, withdrawal, and overdose. Oxycodone abuse is a treatable condition that can be addressed in an inpatient rehab center.

Oxycodone is a prescription opioid (painkiller). When oxycodone is smoked, it can cause feelings of extreme sedation and well-being. Oxycodone and other opioids have a high potential for abuse. This means it is easy to become addicted to oxycodone, as well as other narcotics.

Smoking oxycodone is considered an “escalated” drug-related behavior. People who abuse oxycodone may start out with oral or intranasal use (snorting). In time, people struggling with oxycodone abuse may start smoking the drug for increased effects.

Heterosexual males are the demographic most likely to struggle with smoking oxycodone. People who participate in the electronic music nightclub scene are also at risk for this dangerous behavior.

Smoking oxycodone can lead to serious health risks, including breathing problems, addiction, withdrawal, and overdose.

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Can You Smoke Oxycodone?

Yes. Oxycodone comes in liquid, tablet, and capsule form — and the drug can be snorted, smoked, or injected. People who struggle with opioid abuse may be curious to see what happens when they smoke oxycodone.

If a person does not want to inject drugs, smoking oxycodone might seem like a safer alternative. However, smoking this powerful painkiller can lead to life-threatening consequences, including overdose.

Oxycodone frequently comes in an extended-release tablet, which is meant to be released over time. If someone smokes extended-release oxycodone (OxyContin), it could damage the heart and respiratory system.

Short-Term Effects Of Smoking Oxycodone

Even when taken as directed, oxycodone comes with a host of potential side effects. This medication can cause vomiting, sleep problems, and itchy skin. If a person smokes oxycodone, these side effects will likely be intensified.

Oxycodone and other opioids change the way the brain and body respond to pain. When a person smokes oxycodone, it causes the full dose of the drug to hit the brain and bloodstream at once.

This is called a “rush.” A person may feel a powerful surge of pleasure or warmth, followed by a period of sleepiness or “nodding out.” Opioids like oxycodone slow down a person’s heart rate and breathing, and can cause a person to lose consciousness.

Additional effects of smoking oxycodone include:

  • drowsiness
  • being semi-conscious, or “nodding out”
  • itching
  • dizziness
  • trouble breathing
  • vomiting
  • sore muscles
  • constipation

Long-Term Risks Of Smoking Oxycodone

The risks of smoking oxycodone often last much longer than the high. If a person smokes oxycodone, they are at risk for long-term health concerns. These can include the painful cycle of addiction and withdrawal, which causes people both physical and mental anguish.

Smoking oxycodone is considered an escalated drug behavior. If a person engages in this dangerous method of use, they may progress to injecting oxycodone. Injecting drugs puts a person at risk for infection, abscesses, and transmission of HIV/AIDS.

People who smoke oxycodone are also more likely to struggle with polydrug use. If a person uses multiple substances at once, they are putting severe stress on the organs of the body. Using oxycodone with any other drug also increases a person’s risk of overdose.

Oxycodone Overdose

Opioid drug overdoses are considered an epidemic in the U.S. Every 15 seconds, a person dies from an opioid overdose, including oxycodone.

Opioids are highly addictive and can cause a person to crave larger doses of the drug. People who have been increasing their dose of oxycodone may experience a tolerance to the drug. This means they require larger and more frequent doses to get the same effects.

Taking frequent doses of oxycodone can cause a person to suffer an opioid overdose. Rates of overdose are increasing, especially among women. Approximately 18 women die every day from prescription painkiller overdoses.

Signs of an oxycodone overdose include:

  • slow, shallow breathing
  • small, “pinpoint” pupils
  • loss of consciousness
  • disorientation
  • choking or gurgling sound
  • clammy skin
  • weak pulse

Oxycodone overdose is a medical emergency. If you see a person displaying any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Oxycodone Withdrawal And Detox

When a person uses oxycodone for a period of time, they will likely become dependent on the drug. Dependence occurs when a person’s body requires the drug in order to feel normal.

With prescriptions like oxycodone, dependence can happen quickly. Being dependent on oxycodone can lead a person down the path of addiction, where they continue to use despite negative consequences.

When a person is addicted to oxycodone, they experience a physical and mental craving for the drug. If they stop using oxycodone suddenly, their body may begin to show symptoms of acute withdrawal.

Symptoms of oxycodone withdrawal include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • yawning
  • tearing eyes
  • sweating
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • flu-like symptoms, including body aches
  • uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body (such as legs)

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be painful and difficult to endure. Many people require the help of a medical detoxification program. In a detox program, patients are provided with medical monitoring as well as emotional support.

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can also be a vital tool during the detoxification process. Doctors may prescribe medications like Suboxone, that help to relieve withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.

Treatment For Oxycodone Abuse

People who struggle with smoking oxycodone may already be dependent on the substance. Treating opioid abuse and addiction requires a multi-step treatment approach.

Inpatient (residential) rehab centers offer a personalized approach to addiction treatment. Patients are given access to recovery therapies that include individual counseling and medication-assisted treatment.

To learn more about the effects and risks of smoking oxycodone, or to find a rehab center near you, reach out to one of our treatment specialists today.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus - Oxycodone

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health - Chasing the Bean: Prescription Drug Smoking among Socially Active Youth

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Prescription Painkiller Overdoses

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Signs and Symptoms of an Opioid Overdose

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