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03-01-10 What is parachuting and what does it have to do with drug abuse?

Question of the Week
March 1, 2010
What is “parachuting” and what does it have to do with drug abuse?
“Parachuting” is a term that is used to describe the technique of crushing up a pill, placing the crumbs into a tissue, wrapping this into a “parachute”, and then swallowing the tissue wrapped crushed drug. The intent is to increase the immediate absorption of the drug by increasing its surface area. The purpose of “parachuting” is a faster onset, higher intensity effect of the xenobiotic.  For extended release tablets, crushing the outer coating usually destroys delayed release mechanism. The use of the tissue or toilet paper makes the crumbles of the pill easier to swallow and reduces the unpleasant taste of most crushed pills. Tissue is used since it tends to disintegrate easily with application of moisture.
If the drug abuser uses a different medium to wrap the crumbs other than a rapidly disintegrating material, absorption may be delayed or not occur at all, such as in the case of a sealed plastic sandwich baggy.  This technique is not to be confused with the “body stuffer” who suddenly ingests packaged or unpackaged illicit drugs in an effort to quickly “dispose” of the evidence. In either case, rapid release of drug and subsequent clinical effects may occur.
Question prepared by:  Saralyn Williams, MD  Medical Toxicologist