Whenever drugs are consumed outside of the specific order of a doctor’s prescription, there is a danger posed to a person’s health. While many drugs can have dire consequences for an individual’s emotional, mental and physical health, injecting drugs intravenously poses more serious consequences.
With intravenous drug use, the substance is injected directly into a person’s bloodstream, resulting in serious potential hazards, like collapsed veins, blood clots, heart attacks and more.
If you or a loved one is struggling with intravenous substance abuse, here’s what you need to know.
Intravenous drug use
To understand intravenous drug use and the dangers this method poses, it’s important to first define “intravenous.” Intravenous refers to the method of injecting medications and substances through a syringe. In defining intravenous, it’s important to note, too, that this type of administration of drugs is often abbreviated as “IV.”
Once injected intravenously, the drugs directly enter the bloodstream through a needle or a tube. Intravenous literally means, “into the vein.” While IVs have numerous legitimate medical uses, drugs are often consumed illegally or unsafely through IVs.
The most common category of drugs that are taken intravenously is opioids. It’s common to find individuals who use syringes to inject heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, stimulants, fentanyl, morphine and prescription opioids. While some of these substances are altogether illegal, others can be prescribed by a doctor for legitimate uses and stolen or taken incorrectly.
Drug abuse that involves needles and syringes can be more dangerous than other forms of drug use. For one, the drug travels much more quickly to the brain because of the method of consumption, resulting in a quicker high. This can lead to a more dangerous spiral into addiction, and the need to use larger amounts of a substance more frequently.
Moreover, using needles itself can become part of a ritual of drug use, and the act of preparing to use drugs intravenously can become habitual. The harm IV drug use does to veins can lead to injecting in other forms, such as injecting into the muscles.
Not only is the addiction process more expedited with intravenous use, but it’s also more costly. Below are the most common negative side effects of intravenous drug use.
Side effects of intravenous drug use
There are numerous negatives to abusing substances intravenously. Some are associated with IVs in general, and others are specific to substance use. Here are the most common consequences of IV drug abuse.
Infection from intravenous drug use
IVs are designed to be used in sterile, medical settings and administered only by a trained professional. However, because of this method’s quick effect on the brain and body, many who struggle with addictions prefer this method of consumption. Using needles on oneself can commonly result in infection.
The site of injection is vulnerable to infection from intravenous drug use because it is an open wound. Not only can bacteria enter through the injection site, but unclean needles can result in numerous diseases and infections. These infections are extra dangerous because they easily travel directly into the bloodstream, resulting in fever, chills, itching, swelling and pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a major side effect of opioid drug use is an increased risk of infections such as Hepatitis B and C, human immunodeficiency virus and other blood-borne pathogens. Using contaminated needles can lead to sexually transmitted infections and diseases that are deadly if left untreated.
Damage to veins
Individuals who face addictions and inject drugs intravenously often suffer from damaged veins. Individuals who use the same injection sites repeatedly, even multiple times per day, are likely to experience swelling, inflammation and tissue damage. Veins may also become scarred or even collapse.
Even in medical settings, IVs sometimes have air bubbles that are injected into a person’s veins. These air bubbles may seem harmless, but they form air embolisms and can lead to serious, life-threatening issues like heart attacks and strokes.
Blood clots are gel-like clumps of blood in the body. Blood clots commonly occur in individuals who commonly use IV injections of drugs. Blood clots do not disappear on their own and require medical attention. Intervention is especially important if blood clots around vital organs, like the heart, lungs and brain.
Higher Risk of Overdose
While any drug that is taken improperly can risk overdose, those injected into the body run a much higher risk of this happening. This is because drugs that are taken in the form of powders or pills are created in such a way that they release more slowly into the body.
However, when drugs are taken intravenously, they are injected directly into the bloodstream and make those using them feel the effects almost instantly. If a person injects too high of an amount of a specific drug, their body and brain will not be able to handle it and they can easily overdose.
Risk factors for substance use
Intravenous drug use is a serious concern, and there are numerous risk factors that can lead to this type of substance use.
- Chronic pain: many individuals who are prescribed opioids or pain management medication struggle to maintain regular doses and develop an addiction, using more of their medication at once than is prescribed
- Drug addiction in the family: a familial history of drug addiction can contribute to addiction later on. It is due to a combination of genetic factors and learned behavior
- Co-occurring mental health issues: individuals who face a mental health disorder commonly struggle with substance use
- Social factors: living in a community where drug abuse is prevalent or having little social support are both risk factors for substance use
There is never a single, clear reason why drug abuse occurs. Regardless of the cause, intravenous drug use can pose a serious danger to someone’s health and accessing treatment should be the top priority.
Healing from drug use in any form is within reach. Get in touch with Silvermist Recovery today to renew your hope and regain your life.