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5 Methods of Drug Abuse

Written by Laura Herrmann, MA | Updated on Jan 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by Dr. Patrick J. Gallus, DO

In order for drugs to affect the brain they must first be put into the body. For example, there are five methods of drug abuse which allow drugs to enter the body: swallowing, smoking, snorting, through suppositories and injecting.


Ingesting or swallowing drugs is the most common method of drug use. The individual takes the drugs by mouth. The drugs pass to the stomach and then into the bloodstream. Of all the methods of drug abuse, taking drugs by mouth is considered to be one of the safest methods because it allows the body time to absorb the drug and the digestive system will self induce vomiting as a defense mechanism to ingesting something that does not agree with it.


This method gets the drugs into the body’s system a bit faster than swallowing the drugs because the smoke goes into the lungs where it quickly moves into the bloodstream. The most common drugs individuals smoke are marijuana, heroin, crack and opium. Individuals who smoke drugs are at risk for cancer of the mouth, throat and lung; heart disease and cardiac arrest, stroke, emphysema and bronchitis, pneumonia and other pulmonary disorders and hypertension.


Some individuals snort drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. Drugs enter into the bloodstream through the nasal mucus membranes and through the stomach. Individuals snorting drugs will experience the drug sensation within about 15 minutes after snorting their drugs. There are a number of complications from snorting drugs. For example, the deterioration of the lining of the nasal cavity and the septum can occur, and sharing straws and other items to snort the drugs can lead to hepatitis C and HIV.


Drugs that enter into the body through suppositories are delivered into the bloodstream through the rectum’s mucus membrane. While this is not a common method of drug abuse, common drugs individuals take using this method are cocaine, speed and ecstasy. The mucus membranes in the rectum are sensitive. For example, certain drugs may have a high level of acidity and can cause the lining to be permanently damaged. There is also a risk of perforating the lower colon which can be fatal.


Injecting drugs is the fastest method for experiencing the high from drug use because it puts the drug directly into the bloodstream. Individuals can inject drugs into the soft tissue, into the muscle or directly into the vein. Individuals who inject drugs will experience the high within 3 to 5 seconds (immediately). In turn, this method of drug delivery goes directly to the brain, escaping the body’s natural defense mechanisms including the digestive system. The dangers that come with injecting drugs include infection at the site of injection. Moreover, there is also the risk that sharing needles have including HIV and hepatitis. Some individuals may experience collapsing veins and arterial damage which can lead to gangrene, thrombosis and hemorrhaging.

Get Help With Drug Abuse at Gallus Detox Centers

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug abuse and are in need of detox, Gallus Detox Centers can help. Gallus Detox Centers specializes in many quality addiction detox programs such as:

  • IV therapy medical detox
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Holistic detox
  • 3-day alcohol detox

Call Gallus Detox Centers today at 866-272-5978 to see if our treatment program is right for you.

Laura Herrmann, MA

Laura is the Chief Outreach and Marketing Officer at Gallus Medical Detox, she has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare marketing field in digital, social, product marketing, strategy and sales leadership. Her passion for those struggling and recovering from substance use disorder and mental health as well as advocacy for patient empowerment has driven her career and continues to be the motivation to work within the best treatment options to help those struggling. With a Master’s Degree from Tufts School of Medicine and Emerson College in Health Communication, Laura has continued to find excitement and challenge in her chosen field. She is also the Board President, BarZero and Board Member of the Colorado Professional Liaison Association.

Last medically reviewed on November 06, 2016

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If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, call Gallus at
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