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The Dangers of Snorting Hydrocodone

Peter Manza, PhD profile image
Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD • Updated Feb 9, 2024 • 12 cited sources

The dangers of snorting hydrocodone include overdose, nasal damage, infection and the development of an opioid use disorder (OUD).

Hydrocodone is an opioid, a type of painkiller with legitimate uses that can be very dangerous if misused. It is intended to be taken orally, but some people misuse it by crushing it and snorting it. This produces a faster, more intense high that lasts for a shorter time than if the drug is taken orally.

Snorting hydrocodone can enhance the drug’s side effects. Perhaps most notably, it increases the chance that it causes severe, life-threatening respiratory depression and overdose.

Can You Snort Hydrocodone?

Yes, it is possible to snort hydrocodone but doing so can be risky and even potentially life-threatening.

Hydrocodone comes in a few formulations, including tablets and capsules. People who misuse hydrocodone to get high may crush the tablets and snort the powder.

In the case of a capsule, people may open the capsule and snort its contents. Both of these methods can be very harmful to your physical and mental health.

What Happens If You Snort Hydrocodone?

When snorted, hydrocodone can enter the bloodstream quickly and in higher concentrations than when taken orally.[1] This increases the risk of the opioid causing a variety of serious complications, including:[1]

Snorting drugs can also affect the body in other ways. The nasal passages of the nose are sensitive to foreign substances, and snorting an opioid like hydrocodone through the nose can increase a person’s risk of: [2]

  • Infection
  • Nasal damage
  • Respiratory failure
  • Nose bleeds
  • Perforated nasal septum

Simply put, hydrocodone should only be taken as prescribed, and this means swallowing tablets orally. Choosing to snort the drug is a particularly hazardous form of misuse. Hydrocodone is already dangerous to misuse, but snorting it increases those dangers even more.

Risks of Snorting Hydrocodone Pills

There are several physical and mental risks associated with snorting hydrocodone.


The potential side effects of snorting hydrocodone are serious, and many worsen over time. These are some of the physical issues that can occur.

Damage to Nasal Passages

Nasal passages are susceptible to long-term irritation and inflammation when snorting drugs. This leads to various types of issues, including nosebleeds, runny noses, sinusitis and perforated nasal septum.[2]

Respiratory Issues

Snorting hydrocodone increases the chances of a person developing respiratory problems. This risk increases even further if the drug is taken with other substances that may also cause respiratory problems or if a person is already at risk of developing respiratory health issues.


Overdosing on opioids is a serious problem that can occur due to opioid misuse. Opioid overdose can potentially cause severely shallow breathing or other concerning symptoms that require immediate medical attention.[6] 

Snorting increases the overall strength of an opioid’s effects on the body and can increase the risk of an overdose.

Infection Risk

Sharing equipment that is used to snort drugs with others can increase the risk of spreading diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Physical Dependence and Withdrawal

Snorting hydrocodone not only causes a more rapid high but can also speed up the development of physiological dependence.

Once you’re dependent on hydrocodone, suddenly quitting will result in painful withdrawal symptoms, including: [12]

  • Nause and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose and tearing eyes
  • Goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps


There are several dangers linked to snorting hydrocodone that may impact mental and emotional well-being.

Psychological Dependence

Snorting hydrocodone can increase the likelihood of psychological dependence, in which you feel like you need the opioid in order to function. You may experience severe cravings and be overwhelmed with thoughts about obtaining and using hydrocodone pills.

Changes in Mood and Behavior

Hydrocodone influences brain activity, consequently influencing modifications in mood and behavior patterns, including mood swings, anxiety, and depression. [7] Snorting this drug amplifies the intensity of those changes.

Cognitive Impairment

Misusing hydrocodone can lead to concentration and decision-making issues. [8] The effects worsen when the drug is snorted,  making everyday activities more challenging.

Signs of Hydrocodone Misuse

If someone is misusing hydrocodone, they may exhibit a variety of signs and symptoms that can signal issues with misuse and OUD.[3] These can include the following:[12]

  • Increased tolerance: The body adjusts to the continued use of opioids like hydrocodone, building tolerance. As this happens, it takes more of a given opioid to produce the same effect a smaller amount once caused.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Continued misuse of opioids can cause physical dependence, which means that stopping or reducing your opioid intake will then lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches, and cravings.[4]
  • Changes in behavior: Continued misuse of hydrocodone can signal a person is struggling with OUD, which often leads to a variety of behavioral changes. People may become more isolated, paranoid, and anxious.
  • Financial problems: Regular drug misuse, especially opioid misuse, can be expensive and lead to financial difficulties. This is in addition to the fact that making money can be more difficult if one struggles with OUD, as associated problems can affect a person’s ability to keep a job.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: A common sign of OUD is a person beginning to neglect important responsibilities, such as struggling to go to work and school or meet their family’s (or even their own) needs.
  • Doctor shopping: A common practice among people who want to misuse opioids is doctor shopping, where they visit many different doctors in an attempt to find those who may be overly lax in their prescription of painkillers.[5] A person who wants to misuse hydrocodone may lie about chronic pain to try and get more prescriptions. 
  • Physical symptoms: Hydrocodone misuse can cause physical symptoms, such as drowsiness, slurred speech, constricted pupils, and slowed breathing.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these signs of hydrocodone misuse, it is important to seek professional help immediately.

Getting Help for a Hydrocodone Addiction

Hydrocodone addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that requires professional help. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid use disorder, there are several options available for getting help.[9]

The crucial first step toward getting professional help for an opioid use disorder is recognizing the problem and committing to change. Although it’s not an easy decision, this is what begins the journey to a much better future. OUD is a chronic disorder, not a failure of personal willpower or character.

Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) is the recommended treatment approach for OUD, including hydrocodone misuse. Suboxone (a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone) manages opioid use disorder, so you don’t experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or intense cravings for hydrocodone. This enables you to focus on therapy and other areas of your recovery, as you build a sober lifestyle. 

You can safely remain on Suboxone indefinitely, as it continues to manage your OUD.

Recovery from opioid use disorder isn’t always a straightforward path, and it can be even more difficult if you have a long history of snorting hydrocodone and other opioids.[10] But MAT makes the process manageable. People who previously thought they would never be able to stop misusing opioids are able to achieve and maintain recovery with MAT.[11]

Reviewed By Peter Manza, PhD

Peter Manza, PhD received his BA in Psychology and Biology from the University of Rochester and his PhD in Integrative Neuroscience at Stony Brook University. He is currently working as a research scientist in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the role ... Read More

  1. Drug Delivery Methods. University of Utah. Accessed March 2023.
  2. Hydrocodone Snorting Leading to Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. July 2016. Accessed March 2023.
  3. Signs and Symptoms of Addiction. Psychology Today. Accessed March 2023.
  4. Opioid Withdrawal. StatPearls. January 2023. Accessed March 2023.
  5. Characteristics of Doctor-Shoppers: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of Market Access & Health Policy. March 2019.  Accessed March 2023.
  6. Multi-Level Regulation of Opioid-Induced Respiratory Depression. Physiology. November 2020. Accessed March 2023.
  7. Association of Co-Occurring Opioid or Other Substance Use Disorders With Increased Healthcare Utilization in Patients With Depression. Translational Psychiatry. May 2021. Accessed March 2023.
  8. The Role of the Opioid System in Decision Making and Cognitive Control: A Review. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience. April 2019. Accessed March 2023.
  9. Opioid Misuse and Addiction Treatment. U.S. National Library of Medicine. October 2019. Accessed March 2023.
  10. Swallowing & Snorting. Ontario Harm Reduction Network. Accessed March 2023.
  11. Medication-Assisted Treatment Improves Outcomes for Patients With Opioid Use Disorder. Pew. November 2016. Accessed March 2023.
  12. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

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