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Dangers of intravenous drug use


As is commonly known, most substance abuse does not begin with intravenous drug use. This is because smoking and ingestion of the substance may provide an opportunity to use the drug for those that are wary of using a needle. However, as dependence develops, using drugs that eventually cause tolerance may lead to seeking out a stronger alternative. Though needle use is perhaps most commonly associated with heroin, there are a number of illegal drugs that may be injected for their effects. Injecting in and of itself proves a number of dangerous occurrences within the body.

Signs of use

An intravenous drug user will often have injecting supplies in a kit that they keep close to them are possessively tucked away. Supplies may include a candle, flame or lighter. A spoon or tinfoil may be used for cooking. The substance will then be heated and mixed with water so that water dissolves in it. Drugs will then be drawn through the filter into the syringe. This may be done with controlled substances such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and more. A vein may often be located through the use of a tourniquet. Though methamphetamine and cocaine are usually not heated beforehand, this may present its own set of problems. Bacteria may be more likely to flourish when a substance isn’t boiled, thereby burning off some bacteria.

Some may prefer to use the needle to administer drugs because of paranoia of being discovered due to lingering smells from smoking a drug.

Disposal of needles is also a significant concern for the addict and communities alike. Such needles should never be disposed of in an area where they may be in reach of children or pets. This is one reason why a concealed kit may often be used by those who choose this form of drug abuse.

Health symptoms and effects

The danger of intravenous drug use its often prolonged effect after long term dependence. This can include health complications such as cardiovascular illness. There is also the risk of infection, as well as a potentially fatal overdose. Oftentimes, a skin infection is the result due to repeated injections over a sustained period of time. Bacteria also worm their way in with the drug. Proper cleaning and sterilization of a needle will reduce the likelihood of infections like abscess.

It is probable that the majority of intravenous drug users will eventually suffer permanent scars of the muscle tissue. Prolonged sobriety doesn’t reverse track’s appearance following repeated abuse. Round shaped scars are common and unfortunately are often a focus of stigma as a result. The heart may suffer inflammation as a result of injecting controlled substances or any residual bacteria. There are dangers with letting the resulting illness, endocarditis, go untreated. Using needles in drug abuse also opens the possibility of contracting diseases, such as hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. Drug overdoses increase in likelihood when a drug is abused intravenously. Eventually, injection becomes the preferred method of delivering heroin and other opiates. When injecting is no longer possible due to damage done to the veins over time, then the user may have someone else administer the drug instead. The fact that needle possession is illegal in most states may lead to troubles with law enforcement if authorities become aware of the abuse. Many will share needles because of this, in which case cleanliness becomes a more serious issue. Bone and skin infections are possible. Sexual activity presents its own risk if a drug abuser happens to be infected with a virus or bacterial infection. Injecting controlled substances may cause a weakening of the immune system as well.

One infection that is common with disease is septicemia, or blood poisoning. This may occur when a significant enough amount of toxins flood the bloodstream. Multiple organ destruction may result if proper treatment is not eventually sought. Not taking care of one’s health may also be a factor. Be aware of symptoms that may indicate blood poisoning, such as fever, chills, increased blood pressure, chills and skin discoloration. Medical attention should be sought as soon as possible following such signs.

Societal effects

Oftentimes, those who are recovering from intravenous drug use may face a strong stigma due their dependence. Corrupt law enforcement officials may take advantage of these drug abusers. Some may not seek out treatment because they are worried about being humiliated about their substance dependence. In the meantime, if use continues, then it will only continue to be more of a problem.


Sovereign Health helps the individual minimize the risk of relapse by customizing programs with cutting edge, evidence-based treatment. Sovereign Health offers programs accredited by the Joint Commission and several facilities are dually-licensed to treat mental health disorders and substance abuse. To learn more about our programs and enrollment, call our Admissions Team at 888-530-4614.

By Sovereign Health Writer, Ryan McMaster

Posted in Uncategorized