L'équipe du département de pharmacologie






Université Bordeaux 2 CHU de Bordeaux INSERM
Département Hospitalo-Universitaire de Pharmacologie de Bordeaux

Routes of administration of psychoactive substances

The substance is generally ingested in a pill, capsule or liquide form. It can sometimes be incorporated into a solid food (e.g. a cake containing cannabis). The effects appear with a variable delay, most often between 20 and 30 minutes following ingestion. The oral route of administration is used, for example, for amphetamines, barbiturates, hallucinogenic mushrooms, etc.

This can be performed either in a vein (intra venous, slamming): the effects appear very rapidly, within 15 to 30 seconds, or in a muscle (intra muscular, muscling) or in a sub-cutaneous tissue (skin poping) and the effects appear within 3 to 5 minutes after injection in the last two cases.

The principal route used by addicts, the others being rather anecdotal. Heroin is classically used in Europe intravenously, but other substances can sometimes be injected: cocaine, amphetamines, etc.

Usually a smoked substance: the delay for effects to appear is very short, between 7 and 10 seconds. This is the case for cannabis, crack, heroin, metamphetamine, etc. Sometimes the substance is simply inhaled: this is the case for nitrate derivatives (poppers), solevents, etc.

Nasal intake, also called sniffing (or snorting): this is the classical route of administration for cocaine, but also sometimes heroin and certain medicines. This mode of use leads, in the case of cocaine, to vasoconstriction that can, for example, lead to cardio-vascular events (myocardial infarct, etc.) and, in the case of chronic use, extensive lesions of the nasal mucous and even perforation.
Sublingual (chewing)
This is a mucosal exposition. The substance is placed, as a bolus, in the mouth against the gums. This is the case for coca leaves, betal nut, khat etc. The delay for effects to appear is between 3 and 5 minutes.
Simple contact with the skin. This route of administration is rarely used in the context of abuse, but used therapeutically (e.g.: nicotine, fentanyl, etc.).