Addictive substances can be ingested and metabolized or injected intravenously (IV) or intramuscularly (IM). Depending on the substance being used, you may smoke, sniff, inject or ingest the drugs you are using. Of these methods, intravenous injection is the most dangerous and can cause significant harm, even with short-term use. When injecting drugs (PWID), you become highly vulnerable to severe health complications due to this harmful practice.
Drugs That Can Be Injected
When “injecting drugs” comes to mind, the substance that you may think of is heroin. Indeed, heroin may be the most common substance administered through a vein or intramuscular when abusing illicit substances. There are a wide variety of other drugs that can also be processed into an injectable form, including:
- certain prescription opioids
- prescription stimulants
Why Do People Choose to Inject?
When a substance is introduced into the body through a vein, its effects are felt rapidly and intensely. Unlike some other methods, the drug quickly makes its way to the brain as the body does not metabolize it before entering the bloodstream. A PWID will feel the effects almost instantaneously when using their preferred substance.
Typically you do not start off using drugs in this way. You may have developed a tolerance to your usual method, such as smoking or sniffing your preferred substance, gradually building a tolerance that requires a higher and higher level of use. After realizing that the drugs no longer gave you the high you desired, IV or IM use became the next option. Once graduating to this incredibly deadly and devastating method of use, your addiction and dependency on your preferred substance will increase.
Increased Risk of Medical Problems
Addiction and overdose are not the only hazards for PWID. You are at risk for many health complications that shorten your lifespan and reduce your overall quality of life. After prolonged use, you may find the veins in your arms have become too painful or impossible to access, so you must resort to other areas like your neck, hands, groin, legs, and feet.
Injuries to the Skin & Veins
As a PWID, you have been entrenched into a seemingly endless cycle of building tolerance and finding new areas of your body to IV or IM inject. Over time, the skin at the injection site becomes damaged with bruising, inflammation, and scarring. Wounds take abnormally long to heal and increase the chance of developing an infection. Other complications include:
- collapsed veins (vein no longer allows blood flow)
- deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (a blood clot forms in a vein)
Infections in the Bone & Heart
Osteomyelitis and subacute bacterial endocarditis (SABE) are also common among PWID. Osteomyelitis is an inflammation of the bone or bone marrow and can lead to bone death. SABE occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and makes their way to the heart, causing inflammation in the heart lining and valves. The heart strains to pump blood effectively. If left untreated, SABE can be fatal.
Contagious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV can be contracted through exchanges of bodily fluids when you share needles or other paraphernalia used to inject drugs.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that damages the liver. Although some people can clear the virus, most people do not. About 80% of individuals develop a lifelong disease that can lead to liver failure and liver cancer. Through developments in treatments, there are now options available to clear hepatitis C, depending on the genotype and advancement of the disease.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is also a viral infection. HIV destroys cells that make up the body’s defense system. Over time, the person’s immunity against infections is weakened, putting them at risk for other diseases. The chance of catching HIV is generally higher with substance abuse as you are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.
Other Health Complications
Like other individuals who have become addicted to substances, you are likely to develop health conditions associated with the way you live. Poor living conditions can cause you to become susceptible to illnesses like pneumonia, dental problems, and malnutrition. As the unmanageability from drug use continues to wreak havoc on your life, you are at an increased risk of suicide or overdose.
Signs Your Loved One Needs Help
You can look out for some signs to spot drug abuse. You may feel the need to cover up your arms and hide the injection site, also known as “track marks” or bruises. On the surface of your skin, you may be experiencing collapsed veins or unsightly abscesses.
If you are the friend or family member of someone abusing drugs, your loved one’s mood will also be a chief concern. PWID tend to experience frequent mood swings that indicate when they are high versus when they are coming down. When they crash, they may fall asleep in any place, manner, or position. Those addicted to opiates will “nod out” and seemingly fall asleep after using. Look out for paraphernalia amongst their items, such as needles, syringes, burned spoons, and burnt aluminum foil.
Find Help Today
Addiction and overdose are much more likely to occur when using drugs IV and IM. Our facilities specialize in addiction treatment and offer medical monitoring to ensure you or your loved one’s long-term recovery.
Intravenous injection is one of the most dangerous forms of drug use. People who inject drugs are highly susceptible to life-threatening infections like Hepatitis C and HIV. Bacteria from skin infections can travel to the bone and heart. Avalon Malibu is a mental health & addiction treatment center in Malibu, CA. Our programs are licensed by California state. We are dedicated to the healing of adults experiencing substance abuse disorders as well as psychiatric and mental health issues. Our focus is on helping our clients discover their potential and true meaning in life so they will never have to rely on drugs again. Our clinical team is here to guide clients through detox and medical monitoring. We offer a holistic approach to treating addiction, utilizing a mix of experiential methodologies, expressive arts, and research-based psychotherapies. Please call us today for help: (844) 857-5992