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What Are the Dangers of Snorting or Injecting Vicodin?

Elena Hill, MD, MPH profile image
Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH • Updated Aug 14, 2023 • 8 cited sources

Vicodin (generic name Hydrocodone-acetaminophen) is a prescription medication containing a powerful opioid (hydrocodone) and an over-the-counter anti-pyretic (acetaminophen). Vicodin is a pill, and is meant to be swallowed. However, like many pills, it can be crushed and either snorted or dissolved in water and then injected. People do this in order to get the hydrocodone opioid into their bloodstream faster, which delivers a sensation of being “high”. 

Manipulating medications this way is incredibly dangerous. Risks include infections, tissue damage, overdose, and death. 

Key Facts About Snorting and Injecting Vicodin 

Medications with hydrocodone are among America’s most frequently misused drugs.[1]

Misusing drugs like Vicodin, which also contain acetaminophen, can also cause liver damage.[2]

Almost 100% of all the hydrocodone in the world is used within the United States.[3]

In one study of people in an opioid use disorder treatment program, 80% tampered with their pills in order to sniff or inject the substances to make them work faster.[4]

What Is Vicodin?

The prescription painkiller Vicodin contains two ingredients:

  • Hydrocodone, an opioid that’s chemically similar to powerful drugs like heroin
  • Acetaminophen, an over-the-counter painkiller/anti-pyretic

In 2014, officials classified Vicodin as a Schedule II drug, due to concerns about misuse and addiction.[5]

What Is Vicodin Used For?

Vicodin is used short term to help people with mild to moderate pain that can’t be controlled with safer therapies like aspirin or ibuprofen. Vicodin along with other opioids painkillers are intended to be used on a short term basis only, such as after a surgery or a dental procedure. [1] 

Vicodin and other opioids should not be used long term as evidence shows that they have significant harms with long term use, including paradoxical increases in pain (called “hyperalgesia”), constipation, GI upset, itching, mental status changes, sedation, and even risk of overdose, respiratory depression and death. 

How Do People Misuse Vicodin?

People using Vicodin in order to get high may do so in a few ways. They may take more or higher doses of Vicodin at a time than prescribed by their doctor. They may also ingest the medication in a way other than by mouth, such as crushing the pill and then either sniffing/snorting it, or injecting it. [4]

Tampering with tablets this way allows the opioid to enter the bloodstream and ultimately the brain more quickly. Users experience a more intense, sudden high via this method.

Dangers of Snorting or Injecting Vicodin

Injecting or Snorting Vicodin: What Is Worse?

Tampering with Vicodin is dangerous, no matter whether you snort the substance or inject it. Neither is safe. 

What Are the Dangers of Snorting Vicodin?

Vicodin tablets should be swallowed orally.  The ingredients aren’t made to interact directly with the sensitive tissue inside your nose and throat.

Potential complications include the following:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny nose
  • Whistling sounds when you breathe
  • Voice changes
  • Sore throat
  • Damage to the nasal septum, which could impact your ability to breathe
  • Loss of sense of smell 
  • Infections caused by sharing snorting tools (like straws)
  • Damage to your throat and mouth 

What Are the Dangers of Injecting Vicodin?

Injecting Vicodin or any medication for that matter, can lead to the following consequences?

  • Blood stream or skin Infections where the needle enters your body 
  • Scars caused by your infections and injections 
  • HIV infections caused by sharing needles
  • Hepatitis C infections caused by sharing needles 
  • Organ damage caused by particles moving into your bloodstream via needle
  • Sepsis and death
  • Respiratory depression leading to overdose and even death

Can Snorting or Injecting Vicodin Cause an Overdose?

Yes. Since 1999, more than 760,000 people have died from opioid overdoses [6] Vicodin, particularly if snorted or injected, is an opioid that can cause overdose. [7] People can overdose accidentally even if they are taking their medications orally as prescribed. However, you are even more likely to experience an overdose if you misuse your medication by snorting or injecting. 

Symptoms of Vicodin overdose include the following:[8]

  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Limp body 
  • Blue or purple fingernails or lips
  • Vomiting 
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slowed breathing or heartbeat

Anyone with these symptoms is actively dying. Call 911 and follow the operator’s instructions carefully. If Narcan is available, administer it immediately. 

Learn About Bicycle Health for OUD Treatment

People who misuse Vicodin may struggle to quit without help. Their withdrawal symptoms can push them back to using, even when they want to quit. 

Bicycle Health offers Suboxone treatment. This medication can reduce withdrawal symptoms and limit drug cravings. With the help of this medication, you could stop using illicit drugs and start living a different life. 

The Bicycle Health team uses telemedicine to connect with patients. You’ll have safe, secure appointments from home, and you’ll pick up your medications at a pharmacy near you.

Contact us to find out if this model is right for you.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where ... Read More

  1. Why Do We Prescribe Vicodin? JADA. July 2016. Accessed November 2022.
  2. Hydrocodone. Drug Enforcement Administration. October 2019. Accessed November 2022.
  3. Hydrocodone Snorting Leading to Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. July 2016. Accessed November 2022.
  4. Strategies to Reduce the Tampering and Subsequent Abuse of Long-Acting Opioids: Potential Risks and Benefits of Formulations with Physical or Pharmacologic Deterrents to Tampering. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. July 2012. Accessed November 2022.
  5. DEA to Publish Final Rule Rescheduling Hydrocodone Combination Products. Drug Enforcement Administration. August 2014. Accessed November 2022.
  6. Opioid Crisis Statistics. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 2021. Accessed November 2022.
  7. Opioid Abuse. American Society of Anesthesiologists. Accessed November 2022.
  8. Opioid Overdose. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. September 2022. Accessed November 2022.
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