Is Heroin or Oxycodone More Addictive?

Is heroin or oxycodone more addictive? The answer may surprise you. Overall, of the two, oxycodone is probably more addictive. However, it’s hard to make an equivocal comparison because the two drugs are typically taken in different ways. Heroin is usually injected or snorted.

It can also be smoked by placing it on tinfoil, heating it from underneath, and inhaling the vapors with a straw. This is also called chasing the dragon, probably because the rising tendrils of heroin vapor tend to resemble the head of a dragon.

Oxycodone Abuse

Oxycodone is usually taken orally. In the United States, there is no such thing as pharmaceutical injectable oxycodone. Abusers may crush the immediate-release tablet form of the drug, make a solution with water and inject it, but oxycodone is still typically taken orally, although abusers may also snort the crushed immediate-release tablet. Oxycontin and its generic extended-release forms have a matrix in the tablet preventing abuse by either injection or snorting.

Facts about Bioavailability

There are important chemical reasons why oxycodone retains its power even orally. To understand them, you must first understand what bioavailability or BA is. This is a measurement of the percentage of a drug taken that actually reaches the target organ. In the case of heroin and oxycodone, this would be the brain. Neither drug will have any effect until it crosses the blood-brain barrier or BBB and binds to and activates the opioid receptors located there. These are known as the mu, the delta, and the kappa receptors.

When a drug is swallowed, it must first pass through the liver, which will detoxify the drug as much as it can. This is called the first-pass effect. Some drugs are more prone to this effect, while others are more resistant. Oxycodone is highly resistant. In fact, a whopping 88 to 90 percent of the ingested drug will reach the brain! It races across the BBB as well, making it more addictive. In contrast, morphine’s oral BA is barely 50 percent.

Heroin races across the BBB and slams into the brain’s opioid receptors, too, but it only holds its active form for about 3 to 5 minutes. This is the “rush” of heroin. After a few minutes, heroin begins to break down into the drug from which it came, morphine, and the rush quickly fades.

Heroin vs. Oxycodone

Heroin can be taken orally, too. Over a century ago, heroin was inpatent medicine for cough, teething, sleep, and pain. These medicines were available over the counter and through the mail. However, users today rarely take heroin by mouth. The effect is mediocre and too expensive and wasteful. Heroin’s oral BA is somewhere around 50 percent with a low dose and may rise as high as 64 percent with a very high dose, but oral heroin will not cause the rush so coveted by abusers. Snorted heroin will go to the brain first and cause a rush, too, but not as intensive as that from a dose injected into a vein.

Because heroin is illegal and must be injected or at least snorted, it’s unattractive to many people who also shy away from its stigma as a hard, illicit drug not available by legal means.

Oxycodone is different. Although it’s sold on the black market, it comes from originally legal pharmaceutical sources. Assuming it’s not a counterfeit product, users know it’s pure and exactly what the dose is. This is not true of heroin manufactured in clandestine labs. Street heroin is never pure and may contain contaminants and unreacted residue compounds. It may also contain fentanyl to cheaply and dangerously boost its potency.

Oxycodone hits the brain’s opioid receptors up to 7 times faster than other prescription opioids. This increases the euphoric effects, rivaling those of heroin.

Oxycodone is at least as addictive as heroin, even though it’s typically taken orally. Comparing oral heroin and oral oxycodone, oxycodone is definitely more addictive at equipotent doses. Oral oxycodone can even compete with injected heroin.

Do you Need Help?

If you need help with heroin or oxycodone addiction and feel trapped, call us anytime at 844-639-8371. We’re here 24 hours a day with real solutions and help near you. You’re not alone, and there is always hope. Let us help you today.

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