In all my years of working in the drug field it never ceases to amaze me the many different ways people find to take their drug of choice.

I remember interviewing one young woman who, when asked if she had ever used LSD and by what method she had done so, listed a wide variety of methods.

She had swallowed, snorted, smoked, shafted and injected the drug but was most keen to share with me her favourite method of use -“ placing the trip under her eyelid. Another one to add to the list!

This week we will look at transdermal use of drugs, i.e. absorption across the mucous membranes and skin.

Mucous membranes form the moist surfaces that line the mouth, nose, eye sockets, throat, rectum, vagina and so on. Compared to the skin, these areas are thinner and have a greater blood supply, allowing drugs to travel a shorter distance to reach the blood, and thus the rest of the body.

Certain drugs placed under the tongue (sublingually) are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. LSD is perhaps the best example of this.

Similarly, the nicotine from chewing tobacco and nicotine gum is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth. However, many people find this form of taking drugs a problem due to the unpleasant taste of many substances.

Sniffing or snorting allows a drug to be absorbed across the mucous membranes of the nose and sinus cavities. As the popularity of Special K has increased, the prevalence of snorting drugs has risen.

The bullets used to snort the drug often enable the user to bypass the nose and directly hit the sinus cavity. However, new research has indicated that users should never share bullets as there appears to be a risk of contracting blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis and HIV due to blood transferral.

Most drugs cannot be effectively absorbed by sniffing but, for those that can, this route is very rapid and effective. However, irritating drug substances and those that interfere with blood flow may cause damage to the area.

For instance, when cocaine is snorted, it slows down the blood flow in the surfaces of the nose to such an extent that it may perforate or, in some cases, entirely destroy the nasal septum and the lining of the nose.

Some users insert a drug rectally. This is known as shafting or shelving. Medically, this route is sometimes chosen when swallowing drugs would cause nausea.

However, some illicit drug users prefer this method as they believe the effect will come on faster and be more intense.

Once again, however, when drugs are placed too close to mucous membranes they can damage this sensitive area. It is also important to remember that many drugs are not absorbed efficiently by rectal membranes.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>

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