Does Smoking or Shooting Drugs Cause Faster Addiction?
Author: Justin Mckibben
First things first, it should go without saying that the only foolproof 100% guaranteed way to avoid getting addicted to drugs or alcohol is to abstain from drugs or alcohol. Period. They say the addiction gene is in everyone, sometimes it just takes a different set of circumstances for the addiction gene to activate. A lot of people are lucky enough to never have to find out.
That being said, for drug users, the way you take a drug can make all the difference. Depending on if you snort, swallow, or inject a drug it has the potential to impact your likelihood of getting addicted, and how quickly, according to a new study from the University of Montreal.
Drugs and the Body
Your body is designed in such a way that is experiences and processes different drugs in a variety of ways. Depending on the substance it could move in, through and out of the body differently than another.
Pharmacokinetics is the scientific method in which a drug is examined to see how a drug is:
- Broken down in the body
- How rapidly it enters the bloodstream
- How quickly it is distributed throughout the body
- How quickly it reaches the brain
- How fast it is metabolized
- How long until it is eventually excreted
Drug manufacturers tend to keep a pretty close eye on pharmacokinetics when making their products, but up to this point most addiction specialists have not ventured too deeply into the science of pharmacokinetics.
Straws, Smoke and Needles
Certain drugs like cocaine are typically found to be more addictive than others, and one team of researchers believes this difference can actually be better explained by the science of pharmacokinetics.
Now according to statistics, an estimated 15% to 30% of recreational drug users will develop a serious addiction to the substance. This might not seem like much, but it is an enormous population of people. Some are able to use recreationally and still put it down at the end of the day, others will teeter on the edge of addiction but be able to quit given good reasoning. Then there is the “real deal” addict. Not all too sure how much of a % they have in these numbers, but it is safe to say either way is a dangerous way to live.
Then the research team at the University of Montreal set out to examine the pharmacokinetics of various substances in hopes of bringing more about the connection to addiction to light, believing it was an important aspect of addiction that had gone unattended to. Dr. Anne-Noël Samaha led the team, and they stated:
“If we as drug addiction researchers ignore pharmacokinetics, we do so at our peril.”
They looked at a variety of substances including cocaine and nicotine, and in the process they found out that when a person smokes or shoots a drug intravenously the drug reaches the brain much more quickly than when that same drug is either swallowed or snorted. This doesn’t seem like much of a surprise.
For example, when they studied cocaine users they found quite a difference depending on the method of ingestion:
- Users who took the drug through a needle intravenously experience their peak intoxication within 1 to 5 minutes
- Users who took cocaine by snorting it through their nose tended to experience the peak of intoxication after 15 to 20 minutes
According to the researchers small variations in the speed of cocaine or nicotine onset have a great deal of effects on the neurobiological impact of these drugs.
The researchers also studied the impact of pharmacokinetics on dopamine, the neurotransmitter that floods the brain in correlation with other pleasurable activities like eating or sex. Previous studies have suggested certain drugs create the euphoric “high” feeling by flooding the brain with dopamine.
When the level of dopamine in the brain experiences such sudden increases the researchers believe a person is more likely to develop an addiction to whatever is the cause of the dopamine rush.
So the researchers are telling us the way drugs are ingested impacts how quickly it reaches the brain, which in turn releases the spike in dopamine and causes us to become addicted to getting those results quicker. Seems like a fair enough assumption all things considered. Then again, I think it is also safe to say if you do something like heroin or cocaine long enough you will probably catch a pretty serious habit no matter how you use it.
Smoking or injecting a drug may have a quicker effect on the brain, on the other hand people are all different. An addiction that takes one man years to develop may only take someone else a few months. You may use less than others, but still have an addiction before they do, if they ever develop one. But regardless, there is always hope to recover from whatever addiction however you choose to use.
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