While the quality of heroin in Australia remains questionable, opioid users will continue to inject pharmaceutical opioids such MS Contin, fentanyl buprenorhpine, and of course, oxycontin, as they are cheaper and the purity is consistent. Unfortunately, there are many problems with injecting pharmaceutical pills such as oxycontin that need to be addressed.
Oxys are designed to be swallowed, not injected. They contain a lot of additives including chalk, glue and other fillers that are harmful when injected. Only a very small portion of the tablet is actually oxycodone, the active ingredient in medications such as Oxycontin and OxyNorm. The main problem with injecting oxys is that it can be difficult to separate the active ingredient oxycodone from the additives. These additives can damage and block your veins, which can eventually lead to ulcers and even gangrene and loss of limbs. Injecting pills also puts your liver and kidneys under extra strain, which can lead to very serious health problems. This is why, if you must inject, filtering is so important.
While the risks involved with injecting oxy can be reduced, there is no 100% safe way to inject these drugs. The safest way to take them is to swallow them (crush them up first and they will take effect faster). If you still decide to inject, you need to take the time to prepare your shot using some of the following tips. Your veins will thank you for it.
Remove the coating
Remove the coating from each pill with a new swab. Hold the pill and rub the coating off, but not so much as to make the pill go soft. Some people also scrape the coating off using a sharp knife or razor. Be very careful if using this method. Don’t stick the pill in your mouth and suck the coating off!! You will coat the pill in bacteria and could give yourself a dirty shot.
Crush the tablets
Crush the pills as finely as possible.
Most people find this to be the best procedure: take two spoons, one large (like a tablespoon) and one small (like a teaspoon). Swab both spoons. Put the pills in the large spoon. Put the smaller spoon on top of the large one so it fits inside the bowl of the spoon. Rock the top spoon from side to side, applying careful pressure, to break up the pills. Keep gently grinding and crushing the pills with the small spoon until you have a fine powder.
If you find using spoons is difficult, put the pills between two new, clean sheets of printer paper and rest on a table. Carefully roll a glass bottle or a rolling pin over the top piece of paper to crush the pills in between. Then tip the powder into a spoon.
If you are injecting a lot pills you might find a spoon is too small. Use a teacup or a small bowl to catch the powder, but make sure it is first properly washed and rinsed. When it’s dry, use some swabs to clean out the inside of the cup before you crush the pills.
Add sterile water to the mix. There are numerous opinions among oxy users about how much water to use, but it will depend on the number of pills you are mixing up, and this will depend on the strength of the tablets that you have. Obviously, if you have 80mg oxys then you will need to use less water than if you have only 20mg or 40mg tablets. The amount of pills used will also affect whether you use a 1ml insulin syringe or 3ml or 5ml barrel and tip. Users have different opinions about how many pills can fit into a 1ml insulin syringe. Some users say they put two pills in a 1ml fit (i.e. 60-80 units of water) while others say they can manage up to five pills in a 1ml syringe. You need to find out what works best for you.
“Mull up” with the swabbed end of the plunger or fit. Try to squash up as much of the powder as you can so it dissolves.
Allow the mix to settle for at least five (preferably 10) minutes.
To heat or not to heat?
There is a lot of contention over whether to heat the mix. Most people tend to heat up the mix rather than spend time waiting for the mix to separate. Some users say their shot is stronger if heated, others say it makes no difference.
Oxycodone is water soluble and OxyNorm is easy to dissolve. But Oxycontin is made differently, so it’s harder to break down. The glue, chalk and other fillers are not soluble. When heated, it will melt into a gluey mess. It’s this “glug” that can cause so many problems if injected.
If you must heat the mix, only use a small amount of heat. Turn your lighter down to the lowest setting. Hold the flame 2-3cm under the spoon and heat until the mix thins out. If you see bubbles begin to form then you are overheating it. You will see the fillers congeal into a solid mass floating on the top of the spoon or into a few lumps.
While the mix is still warm, place the spoon on an ice cube. The sudden decrease in temperature will further separate the fillers from the active solution.
Filtering - the most important part
There are a few different methods for filtering depending upon the equipment you have available and amount of pills you are using.
Micron or “wheel” filters are hard to obtain, but get them if you can – they filter most particles out. Some users think they lose some of the active ingredient when they use wheel filters, but research suggests that little of the active ingredient is lost if it’s filtered carefully.
Up to eight pills can be filtered using a 1.2 size filter. You will need to use a 3ml or 5ml barrel when using a micron filter.
Put the mix into a barrel. Pre-wet the filter by putting sterile water into another barrel. Then attach the filter and push some water through the it.
Now attach the filter to the barrel with your mix. Put a tip onto the filter. Take an empty barrel, put the tip into it, and push the mix very slowly through the filter into the new barrel.
If you are really diligent, you can start with a larger filter such as 1.2, then move down to a 0.2 size filter, which will take out bacteria as well.
Swab your fingers and make a filter about 8mm-1cm in diameter and drop it onto the edge of the mix (away from the solidified matter). Put your tip onto the cotton and slowly draw the solution through the cotton wool. Be careful to avoid any solid matter. If you can, repeat this process.
Cotton wool will take out particles larger than 50 microns.
The 3ml barrel and cotton wool method
This is a useful method to use when you are using more pills than will fit into a 1ml insulin syringe.
Take the plunger out of a 3ml or 5ml barrel. Swab your fingers and roll a wad of cotton wool about 2cm in diameter and drop into the barrel.
Force the cotton wool into the end of the barrel by replacing the plunger and squashing it down. Take the plunger out again. Carefully tip (or squirt from a syringe) the mix into the barrel onto the cotton wool. Replace the plunger (which can be a bit tricky) and gently squeeze the solution through. Repeat the process if you can.
Now your shot is ready. Stay safe!
Illustrations by Renata Pari