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What Exactly Is Plugging Heroin? (Rectal Administration)

Heroin addiction can lead people to explore new ways of getting high or doing many things to cover up evidence of their substance abuse. This has led to the unusual method of “plugging,” which is the practice of administering the drug rectally — that is, to insert the drugs into their anus.

Plugging heroin is fraught with its own risks and problems. It is no less dangerous than injecting, snorting, or smoking the drug. 

What Exactly Is Plugging?

The term “plugging” refers to administering drugs rectally — essentially, introducing drugs into the bloodstream via the rectum. “Plugging” and “booty bumps” are colloquial terms and can also refer to inserting heroin into the vagina.
Many medications are meant to be taken rectally. In this form, these medicines are known as suppositories. The laxative glycerin is administered in this way. Once in the rectum, the medication is absorbed through the membrane and into the blood vessels. It is then sent into the body’s circulatory system, which sends the chemicals to the body’s organs and other systems.

Most drugs that are taken rectally will have a faster onset of effect, a shorter peak of effect, and last for a shorter period than those taken orally. This is partially because, in the words of an online resource for emergency medical responders, “the anus is very veinous,” and this dense network of veins quickly facilitates absorption into the bloodstream.

Some patients experience less nausea with suppositories than when they swallow their medicine, and rectal administration prevents any amount of the medication being expelled due to nausea and vomiting. Bypassing much of the body’s metabolism, drugs that are administered through the rectum will reach the circulatory system with much less alteration to their chemical composition and in greater concentrations. 

How Can Heroin Be Plugged?

There are many other reasons why some drugs are given to patients through their rectum, but the reasons listed above hint at why plugging has become an alternative method of abusing drugs recreationally.
For people looking to plug heroin, they might do so by using a syringe without the needle. A disposal oral syringe (a device used to precisely measure minuscule doses of liquid medicine, usually given to very young children) is filled with liquefied heroin (as when the heroin would be injected into a vein), but the solution is then inserted into their anus.  A disposable syringe cuts down on the risk of infection.

Some users might also use lubricants to ease the insertion of the syringe into their rectum, reducing the risk of tears and other injuries to the area.

If a user has access to powdered heroin or does not have access to a syringe, they might rub the powdered heroin into the lining of their rectum with a finger.

The powder can also be mixed with water and inserted into the rectum via an enema.

Female users can also do this by rubbing heroin into the lining of their vaginas or dispensing the heroin solution from a syringe into their vaginas.

A bag of heroin about to be plugged, emptied onto a black surface

Why Do People Plug?

Why would someone want to plug heroin? Some people do so because they are curious about the sensation of experiencing heroin differently, and they just want to experiment. Others are aware than injecting heroin leaves track marks, which is a common sign of drug abuse, and that snorting drugs can quickly damage the tissue lining of the nasal passages, causing nosebleeds and a diminished sense of smell.

Some people plug heroin because they might be aware that inserting a drug into the rectum allows for faster absorption into the bloodstream and quicker transfer to the brain. While this is the case for most drugs and medications, there is a delayed onset to the euphoric effects of rectal administration of heroin. It would indeed be quicker, but no less dangerous, to get the high of heroin by snorting or injecting it into a vein; however, most users might be unaware of this, so they keep inserting heroin rectally.

Furthermore, the high from the rectal (or vaginal) administration of heroin peaks and fades very quickly, which compels users to continually plug heroin in this way. Despite the short-lived peak, they are nonetheless exposing their brain and central nervous system to heroin, and the mechanisms of an overdose are still in place.

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Is Plugging Safe?

No. Outside of medications that are designed to be administered rectally, there is nothing safe about plugging drugs.
The most common problem with taking drugs in this way is that it irritates the very sensitive tissues that line the interior of the colon. Any damage to the skin of the anal region can cause overexposure to digestive juices, which can cause pain, bleeding, and difficulty passing stools.

Given that opioid use in general causes constipation, a person taking heroin rectally is in danger of developing hemorrhoids and bowel incontinence.

Additionally, damaging the lining of the rectum (either through contact with a finger or using unclean equipment) can make the anus and rectum more prone to sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The same applies to women who try to administer heroin through their vaginas.

Lastly, no matter how it is taken, heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. Any impression that plugging heroin is safer than injecting it or snorting it is misguided. However it is administered, the molecules in the drug will attach themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system and cause immense physical and psychological damage.

Sources

(2018). Toots, Tastes and Tester Shots: User Accounts of Drug Sampling Methods for Gauging Heroin Potency. Harm Reduction Journal. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5956544/

(February 2016). What Medics Need to Know About “Buttchugging.” EMS1.com. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ems1.com/drug-abuse/articles/64722048-What-medics-need-to-know-about-buttchugging/

(April 2011). Use Only Oral Syringes for Liquid Medicines. Consumer Med Safety. Retrieved January 2019 from http://www.consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/item/98-use-only-oral-syringes-for-liquid-medicines

(November 2018). The Various Ways Heroin Is Taken. Verywell Mind. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-is-heroin-used-63225

Injection Drug Use. Minnesota Department of Health. Retrieved January 2019 from http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/healthimprovement/opioid-dashboard/intravenous.html

(July 1999). Mechanisms of Fatal Opioid Overdose. Addiction. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10707430

Anal Injury. Health Direct. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/anal-injury

(February 2018). What You Can Do About Opioid Induced Constipation? Verywell Mind. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.verywellhealth.com/opioid-induced-constipation-4153814

(January 2018). Constipation. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253

(November 2014). Sexually Transmitted Infections of the Rectum and Anus. World of Gastroenterology. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4223259/

The Deadly Drug That Used to Be a Popular Medicine. OZY. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ozy.com/flashback/the-deadly-drug-that-used-to-be-a-popular-medicine/39174

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