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Route of Drug Use and Its Implications for Drug Effect, Risk of Dependence and Health Consequences

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Review Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: June 1998 Pages: 197-211
J Strang; J Bearn; M Farrell; E Finch; M Gossop; P Griffiths; J Marsden; K Wolff
Date Published
15 pages
The influence of a drug's route of administration on the actual experience of the drug use itself, on the risk of developing drug dependence, and on the nature of the adverse health effects was examined by means of a literature review.
The effects of opiates and cocaine were considered with respect to both drug absorption and the speed of onset of the effects, depending on whether a particular drug was taken orally, by smoking, by snorting, or by injection. The analysis of the risk of dependence covered animal and human laboratory studies of reinforcement schedules, epidemiological studies, the attitudes of drug users themselves to the different routes of possible drug use and the associated dependence risk, and the postulated influences on the progression to dependence. The analysis of health effects noted the risk of AIDS transmission, hepatitis, and overdoses among injecting drug abusers. It also noted the respiratory problems observed among crack smokers, among coca-paste smokers, and heroin smokers, as well as the periodic outbreaks in western Europe of spongiform leuco-encephalopathy among those who use their heroin by a process called chasing the dragon. The analysis concluded that the route by which a drug is administered affects its bioavailability, its psychopharmacological potency, and its likelihood of dependence. Each route of drug use is also associated with its own specific complications that are distinct from the drug's pharmacological effects. Further analysis of these issues will aid the future development of drug policies and drug treatment. 178 references


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