Understanding A Needle Fixation

DrugRehab.org Understanding A Needle Fixation

Needle fixation occurs when the act of injecting becomes compulsive, rewarding, and equal to or more important than the actual act of using the drug itself. Certain experts actually consider needle fixation to be a separate addiction, with some referring to it as a behavioral addiction. A needle fixation can increase the already present risks which accompany injection drug use, such as infection, transmissible disease, and death.

DrugRehab.org Understanding A Needle Fixation Quarter Of Injecting

Not every individual who injects drugs will develop a needle fixation. But those who do, entertain thoughts and engage in behaviors increasingly shaped by this compulsion. The Public Sphere reports that “Estimates suggest that needle fixation is observed among a quarter of injecting heroin users.” So how does a person develop a needle fixation and what does it entail?

Intravenous (IV) Drug Abuse: The Basics

Injecting drugs is the most invasive, and dangerous, way a drug abuser can administer a drug. To do this, an individual fills a needle or syringe with the desired drug of abuse. Intravenous drug users (IDUs) inject drugs the following ways:

  • Intramuscularly: Into the muscle
  • Intravenously (IV): Into the vein
  • Subcutaneously (“Skin-popping”): Right below the skin

Some of the most addictive drugs known to man are used this way, including heroin, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine, among others.

What Is A Needle Fixation?

In short, it’s when a person compulsively uses needles. Further, the individual’s fixation on needles either equals or surpasses their desire to use the drug. The act of injecting, in and of itself, provides a sense of reward which is separate from the “rush” or “high” of the drug.

A more technical definition, sourced from a research report published in the journal Addiction, cites that is is “Repetitive puncturing of the skin with or without the injection of psychoactive drugs via intravenous, subcutaneous or intra-muscular routes, irrespective of the drug or drugs injected or the anticipated effects of the drug.”

Considering the fact that addiction, especially an addiction to hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, overrides a person’s desire for most anything else, this is pretty extreme. This is why some experts refer to a needle fixation as an addiction itself.

DrugRehab.org Understanding A Needle Fixation Seperate Addiction

The Public Sphere notes that three themes lead certain people to develop “an addiction to the injecting process,” including:

  • Previous obsessive traits
  • Irrational superstitions
  • Insecure attachments

These individuals harbor perspectives and reactions to needles and needle use which can endanger their health and even those around them.

What Behaviors And Thoughts Are Associated With A Needle Fixation?

Like other harmful behaviors surrounding substance abuse, a needle fixation is steeped in some very unhealthy and negative thoughts and behaviors, such as those outlined by the Addiction report:

  • Ritualization: A person becomes obsessed with preparing the needle for injection.
  • Relishing the skill of injecting: User’s claim that their skill at injecting increases their self-esteem.
  • Substitution of other drugs or water: Some people may fixate on the injection so much that they turn to these substances if their drug isn’t available, just so they can inject.
  • Pleasure at injecting: The injection itself creates a sense of well-being and enhances the rush of the drug.
  • Pursuit of pain: Certain individuals report liking the pain associated with the injection (masochism).
  • Linked to deliberate self-harm: Some individuals inject as a means to purposely harm or punish themselves.
  • Association with sex: Injection is linked to sexual pleasure and as a way to create intimacy.

Specifically, a person with a needle fixation may:

  • Feel a rush or “buzz” simply by using the needle, even before the drug hits their system.
  • Become sexually aroused by injecting, or being injected by, their partner.
  • Find that they replace sex in increasing instances with the ritual of injection.
  • Believe it would be harder to give up injection than the actual drug of abuse.
  • Feel the process of preparing the needle for injection is as, or more, important than the high.
  • Feel calm or more relaxed after they inject water.
  • Enjoy the pain that results from the injection (either when injecting their self or when injected by others.)
  • Become infatuated with the needle because of how they equate it to this pain.
  • Pull blood in and out of the syringe prior to or following injection (“flushing”).

These behaviors can put a person in harm’s way. For instance, when a person is injecting a partner, especially if they equate a sexual feeling to the act, they are more apt to share needles. This practice drastically increases the risks associated with injection. As these behaviors accompany drug abuse, comprehensive treatment should be sought which addresses both concerns.

What Are The Dangers Of Injecting Drugs?

A needle fixation can jeopardize an IDU’s health and life. When this desire becomes so strong, coupled with the already overwhelming urge to use, a person may resort to sharing needles, using dirty needles, or using old needles, all of which increase the risk of infection, transmissible disease, and as a secondary effect, death.

Injecting drugs can lead to:

Many of these conditions can accelerate into critical stages and lead to death.

Recognizing a needle fixation, and educating an IDU on it, is key to preventing these risks and opening the conversation up for treatment.

Why Is It Important To Understand Needle Fixations?

Some findings illustrate that individuals with a needle fixation are more impulsive than their IDU counterparts who don’t have a fixation. Some research even posits that a needle fixation should be classified as a behavioral addiction and treated as such.

DrugRehab.org Understanding A Needle Fixation Both The Drug Addiction And

In keeping these concerns in mind, treatment should address any issues which relate to impulsive and/or ingrained negative behaviors. Effective treatment should treat both the drug addiction and the dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors linked to the needle fixation.

Does A Needle Fixation Alter A Person’s Treatment Needs?

Yes. A BMJ Journals article explains how a needle fixation can influence treatment:

“When treating injection drug users it is important to simultaneously assess needle fixation because this would influence the treatment outcome…Understanding needle fixation as deliberate self harm can encourage testing pharmacological interventions in addition to behavioral therapies.”

Any time an individual enlists in rehab, to optimize treatment results, the facility’s staff should seek to understand a their unique situation as fully as possible. Understanding a person’s perspectives on drug abuse is important and can help to inform an individualized treatment approach.

How Do You Treat A Needle Fixation?

Many of the same modalities used to treat drug addiction may also benefit a person’s pursuit of overcoming their needle fixation. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be impactful methods for treating matters of impulse control, self-harm, abnormal sexual proclivities, and dysfunctional behaviors.

DrugRehab.org Understanding A Needle Fixation Therapy And Counseling

On this subject, one paper asserts that “Consequently, current evidence-based treatments for behavioral addictions could be modified to address the inherent difficulties of impulse control in those identified as needle-fixated injecting drug users.”

Therapy and counseling work to restore positive and healthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors which build up sobriety and undue the damage done from the needle fixation and addiction. Additionally, these behavioral therapies are key components of treatment for any co-occurring mental health disorders, like depression or past trauma.

Begin Building Healthy Behaviors For Sobriety Today

A good treatment program can work to treat needle fixation and as well as addiction. If you’re interested in learning more about how inpatient drug rehab can help you in these ways, let DrugRehab.org help. Your call is one hundred percent confidential. Contact us today.

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Sepsis From Intravenous (IV) Drug Use

DrugRehab.org Sepsis From Intravenous (IV) Drug Use

While drug abuse of any kind can be dangerous, certain routes of administration can cause greater damage than others. Intravenous drug use, the act of injecting a water-soluble drug into one’s body, is one of the most invasive and dangerous ways an individual can administer a drug. Through continued use and repeated trauma to the injection site, IV drug abuse leads to many hazardous health effects, including sepsis.

What Is Sepsis?

DrugRehab.org Sepsis From Intravenous (IV) Drug Use Chemicals Release

While many people think sepsis is an infection itself, it’s actually a complication caused by an infection. As explained by Mayo Clinic, “sepsis occurs when chemicals are released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body.”

The type of infection which can cause sepsis varies. Sepsis is most heavily linked to bacteria, though certain forms of fungus or viruses may also cause it. Sepsis is commonly referred to as “blood poisoning,” as the bacteria or toxins produced by them overtake the bloodstream.

What Are The Stages Of Sepsis?

Mayo Clinic explains that sepsis is typically broken down into three stages:


Sepsis is diagnosed only when there is reasonable suspicion or verification of an infection, in addition to two of the following symptoms:

  • Body temperature above 101 F (38.3 C) or below 96.8 F (36 C)
  • Heart rate higher than 90 beats a minute
  • Respiratory rate higher than 20 breaths a minute

Severe Sepsis

Within this state, a person must have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Improperly working heart
  • Respiratory (breathing) struggles
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Platelet count begins falling
  • Rapidly altered mental states
  • Urine production drastically drops

Any of these symptoms indicate potential organ failure.

Septic Shock

As a person’s condition advances to this state, they will display the above signs and symptoms. But, in order to qualify as septic shock, a person’s blood pressure must remain low despite attempts to increase it with fluid replacement.

Sepsis becomes more dangerous as it progresses through these stages. To avoid the greatest danger, treatment should begin as early as possible.

How Does IV Drug Use Cause Sepsis?

Intravenous drug use can introduce numerous toxins and pathogens into a person’s veins and body at large, which pave the way for infection. Pathogens include bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA as it’s better known to most of us, is the bacteria most frequently responsible for IV drug infections.

Transmission of these pathogens often occurs due to improper and unhygienic handling of needles. As a person becomes addicted, the need to use becomes so intense that they disregard their health. Because of this, some users share needles. This behavior increases the risk that a pathogen will be transmitted by blood-to-blood contact.

DrugRehab.org Sepsis From Intravenous (IV) Drug Use Some Users Share Needles

Even if you never share needles, you could still be at risk. Far too many drug abusers repeatedly use the same syringe. Doing so allows bacteria to grow on the needle, which could then be transmitted into your tissue and blood. Even with new needles, a person can still get an infection if they don’t properly clean the injection site. Research has found that bacteria from a person’s skin presents a greater risk than that which is present on shared needles.

Intravenous injection requires a vein, which leaves drug abusers with only so many options. Because of this, many users will repeatedly inject at the same site. This can create abscesses, track marks, or ulcers, all of which can lead to serious infection. Sometimes, a user will actually miss the vein and inject the drug into their muscle or right under the skin, raising the risk of infection in these regions. Lastly, it’s suspected that using black tar heroin increases a user’s risk of infection.

What Types Of IV Drug-Related Illness Or Disease Cause Sepsis?

Intravenous drug abuse causes a range of infections, many of which can become deadly. One of the biggest reasons why these infections endanger a person’s life is because they cause sepsis.

The following infections can lead to sepsis:

Cellulitis: This infection affects both the skin and underlying tissue, and can spread outwards across the limb.

Endocarditis: This occurs when bacteria, fungus, or viruses cause an infection within your heart’s inner lining and valves.

Necrotizing fasciitis: Often referred to as the “flesh-eating disease,” this rare but serious infection is extremely aggressive and causes your body’s soft tissues to die.

Whether you inject sporadically or chronically, you’re exposing yourself to danger. While it’s true that prolonged and chronic use increases your risk over time, it is possible to contract an infection from even one use.

What Are The Complications And Dangers Of Sepsis?

DrugRehab.org Sepsis From Intravenous (IV) Drug Use Poisions Your Blood

Sepsis poisons your blood and body. The more time that passes without treatment, the greater the risk of complications and fatality. Sepsis can become so severe that your organs struggle to function properly. This can lead to organ damage and/or failure. Combined with the dangers of the infections themselves, these effects even further increase the risk of death.

A person’s veins can become septic and develop blood clots, inflammation, and bacteria throughout. Injecting into the jugular or other central veins increases this risk. These states could develop into sepsis and septic emboli (bacteria and pus-filled embolisms), both of which can be life-threatening conditions.

As outlined by the Sepsis Alliance, individuals who recover from sepsis often face serious long-term effects, such as:

  • Amputated limbs
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Organ dysfunction

How Is Sepsis Treated?

If you suspect you have or are developing sepsis, seek medical help immediately. Left untreated, sepsis can progress rapidly to the point of threatening your life. As soon as you seek treatment, medical staff will likely administer a broad-spectrum antibiotic. This medication can address various types of infection and the bacteria which cause them. Once tests determine the specific bacteria, a more focused antibiotic may be used.

Through these stages, Mayo writes that other treatments may be initiated, such as:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Drugs to stabilize the immune system
  • Insulin (to stabilize blood sugar)
  • IV fluids
  • Oxygen
  • Painkillers (staff should proceed accordingly with opioid-addicted individuals)
  • Sedatives
  • Vasopressor medication to raise blood pressure

Advanced stages of sepsis may require:

  • Breathing support
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Surgery

Mayo Clinic cautions that “people with severe sepsis require close monitoring and treatment in a hospital intensive care unit. If you have severe sepsis or septic shock, lifesaving measures may be needed to stabilize breathing and heart function.”

While sepsis can be treated, we urge you to consider preventative measures to avoid this risk. Effective drug rehab can help you to overcome your IV drug addiction. Here you’ll encounter counseling, behavioral therapies, and if needed, medication-assisted treatment. Along with other dynamic modalities, these things can help you overcome your addiction.

Don’t Let IV Drug Abuse Destroy Your Health Or Claim Your Life

Contact Drugrehab.org today if your or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Our treatment specialists can help find a program that is tailored to your needs. If you suspect that yourself or a loved one may have sepsis or another serious infection as a result of intravenous drug use contact your doctor or go to a hospital immediately.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a heroin addiction, contact us now!

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Cotton Fever From IV Drug Use

DrugRehab.org Cotton Fever From IV Drug Use

When an intravenous (IV) injection drug user prepares their drug of choice, they may have to filter the substance before they fill the syringe with it. To do this, many people use makeshift filters made from cigarette filters or cotton balls. The latter material is associated with causing a flu-like illness marked by fever. Many IV drug abusers refer to this as “cotton fever.” Cotton fever hits a user 15 to 30 minutes after injection, with symptoms typically subsiding in 12 hours.

What Is Intravenous Drug Use?

People inject drugs a number of ways. The most common way is by injecting the substance directly into the vein. Many users prefer IV drug injection because it causes the most rapid effect. To do this, a person dilutes or liquefies the drug, often by heating it. After the drug becomes liquid, it’s then loaded into the syringe. Certain drugs must be filtered before this step can occur, due to the number of impurities in the substance. This is a common practice with heroin.

DrugRehab.org Cotton Fever From IV Drug Use 15 To 30 MinutesAgain, cotton balls are commonly used for this purpose since they are so cheap and readily available. Once a drug is in liquid form, a person draws the substance through the filter and into the syringe. The forearm is a primary injection site for many users, however, other locations may also be used to “shoot up” or inject the drug.

What Is Cotton Fever?

Heroin is most closely associated with cotton fever. But a Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM) article notes that hydromophone or a combination of pentazocine and methylphenidate have also been linked to the condition. The article continues, reporting that “injection drug users estimate the incidence of cotton fever to about 5 % per year of use.”

Unlike many of the other medical risks associated with IV drug abuse, cotton fever is considered to be a benign syndrome. This means that the condition doesn’t become severe or life-threatening over time, even without treatment (though certain medications can be used to alleviate symptoms). Cotton fever also resolves on its own, with symptoms typically dissipating in six to twelve hours. More severe cases may last one to two days. But this does not mean that you shouldn’t seek treatment.

Intravenous drug use is associated with a host of illnesses and disease. Many of these, like cellulitis, endocarditis, and even pneumonia can cause symptoms which are similar to cotton fever. This similarity can cause two problems.

Cotton fever can be overlooked or misdiagnosed, leading to unnecessary and prolonged medical care. The JGIM article comments on this, noting that “The importance of recognizing cotton fever is paramount, as early suspicion may reduce expensive secondary evaluations and the length of hospitalization.”

DrugRehab.org Cotton Fever From IV Drug Use The Importance Of

Secondly, other illnesses could be misdiagnosed as cotton fever. While this is fairly rare in a medical setting, it’s important that other more serious conditions are ruled out by with appropriate testing. Also, some users may be quick to think their symptoms are only cotton fever and fail to seek medical help. Should these symptoms be tied to a different condition, a person could greatly be jeopardizing their health or even life. Without the proper treatment, certain other IV-related conditions can become quite dangerous or even deadly.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cotton Fever?

Symptoms of cotton fever hit quickly and often occur as soon as 15 or 20 minutes after using the drug. As we noted, cotton fever resembles the flu, with symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormally fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • Chills
  • Elevated white blood cell count (leukocytosis)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Mild distress
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

According to the article “Cotton Fever: A Condition Self-Diagnosed by IV Drug Users” a patient may meet systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria, a set of symptoms which include many of the above. These criteria could point to an underlying infection. For this reason, sepsis or other infections should be ruled out.

What Causes Cotton Fever?

While the IV drug user community has long been familiar with cotton fever, medical research is still somewhat sparse on the subject. Researchers and medical professionals are still not entirely sure what causes it.

Any contact with cotton as a drug filter is suspected, but another practice is thought to increase the risk. When a person becomes addicted to a drug, they experience an intense need to use it. Because of this, they will often go to great lengths to find the drug and will even do so in ways which could become harmful to their health. Some users report trying to extract the drug from used cotton balls when they can’t find heroin any other way. This practice has been coined “shooting the cottons.” After sitting out for some time, these cotton balls could harbor bacteria or other pathogens.

Beyond this, the aforementioned article does propose three theories which discuss possible explanations of why this cotton fever occurs:

DrugRehab.org Cotton Fever From IV Drug Use Shooting the CottonsImmunologic theory: Users have antibodies for the cotton which cause a reaction after injection

Pharmacologic theory: When the drug enters a person’s bloodstream it contains substances from the cotton which cause fever (pyrogenic substances). These substances are water-soluble, so the liquid form of the drug has a tendency to dissolve them.

Endotoxin theory: Certain Gram-negative bacteria live on the cotton plant. These bacteria produce an endotoxin which is carried through to drug and subsequently to the patient, causing fever. Blood cultures do support this theory, as certain bacteria have been found in the used cotton which was linked to the illness.

The latter theory appears to be recognized as the most probable, and the JGIM article asserts that “no evidence has been found to support the immunologic or pharmacologic theory.” Even though cotton fever will resolve on its own, it’s still important you seek medical help to confirm that this is the correct diagnosis.

How Is Cotton Fever Treated?

When a patient is first admitted or examined for cotton fever, blood tests and cultures should be done. While waiting for these results, broad-spectrum antibiotics may be administered in case the symptoms are caused by another more serious condition. Depending on the severity of the person’s substance use disorder, they may require withdrawal management during this time.

Certain over-the-counter medications may be administered to control the fever, muscle aches, nausea, and/or vomiting. If a person has become severely dehydrated they may also receive IV fluids.

Like any other illness or disease caused by IV drug use, cotton fever can be avoided. Good drug addiction treatment can help a person achieve sobriety and learn how to live a fulfilling drug-free life.

Live A Healthier Drug-Free Life

Heroin and other drugs which are injected are highly addictive. These addictions can be very hard to beat on your own. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. DrugRehab.org’s compassionate staff can help you to set treatment goals and begin building a plan to obtain them. We have access to phenomenal treatment programs all across the nation. Contact us now for help.

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What Are Track Marks?

DrugRehab.org What Are Track Marks_

Injection drug abuse is one of the most dangerous ways of administering a drug. Intravenous injection delivers the drug rapidly into your system, creating what is nearly an immediate and very intense high. Because of this, it’s the most popular way to inject a drug.

What Is Intravenous (IV) Drug Use?

Injection drug use means simply that the drug is administered through a needle or syringe. It doesn’t always mean that the drug is injected into your vein. Some users choose to inject the drug into their muscle or just below their skin, whereas others shoot it directly into their bloodstream. The latter method is referred to as intravenous or IV drug use.

DrugRehab.org What Are Track Marks_LocationsThe most frequently used veins are those in the crook of the forearm, though other locations may be used. If a person injects into their arm, it’s typically the one opposite from the hand they write with. This makes it easier for them to inject the drug themselves. To work around this, some people may have a fellow drug abuser inject the substance for them into their dominant arm.

There are other locations which may also be used, including the hand, foot, groin, or leg. Some individuals choose different sites so that they can more easily hide the track marks. Others may be forced to move to a new location once their primary site becomes too inflamed or scarred to continue injecting in.

Once the drug of choice is loaded into the syringe, the user selects a vein for entry. Now they “tie off” near the location for injection. To do this, a belt, rubber tubing, or other strap-like item is tied tightly around their arm. This is called a tourniquet or “tie.” This causes the vein to swell, making it easier to inject the needle into. As soon as the needle is in the vein, the tourniquet is removed. Failure to do so can cause even more complications.

What Types Of Drugs Are Injected?

Many drugs of abuse can be administered more than one way, including by IV injection. Commonly injected drugs include:

Some, like cocaine and heroin, are frequently abused together. This is called a speedball. Across the US, there are increasing reports of potent opioids being mixed with cocaine and heroin. Injecting any of these drugs, either alone or in combination, is very dangerous and can lead to a fatal outcome.

What Causes Track Marks?

Track marks are the scars which remain after a person shoots up a drug. These marks are caused by:

Chronic Abuse: Prolonged and repeated use at the same injection site increases the odds of a track mark developing. Over time, as a person continuously injects in the same spot, the vein becomes damaged and scars build up.

DrugRehab.org What Are Track Marks_Causes

Old Needles: If a person keeps on using the same needle, the tip will become blunted and dull. Upon injection, this places excess pressure on the vein and damages it even more.

Impure Drugs: It’s very rare to find a pure drug on the street. Instead, the majority of illicit drugs have some form of contamination. These impurities may result from poor manufacturing processes or because the drug was purposely adulterated or “cut” with other substances. The build up of these toxins is often responsible for the darker color of the track mark.

What Do Track Marks Look Like?

Track marks are often the most tell-tale signs that a person is an IV drug abuser. Technically speaking, as we’ve explained, a track mark is a scar. However, due to the fact that many IV drug users engage in chronic substance abuse, the appearance of these marks may vary. Track marks look different depending on what stage of healing they’re in. What this means is that some people may have fresh marks layered upon or alongside of older scars.

Recent marks: These lesions may look fresh, having not yet had time to heal. Shortly after injection, they may appear as puncture marks, scabs, or bruises.

Older marks: As drug use progresses, the skin may crack, bleed, and even become infected. Track marks and scarring run the length of the vein and appear slightly raised and discolored (darker) in comparison to the rest of the skin.

Drug abusers often try to hide these marks by wearing long sleeves (even in warm weather) or even by getting tattoos over the injection site.

Track marks don’t necessarily go away once you’ve stopped abusing drugs. Medscape cites a study which found that 53 percent of former IV drug abusers had visible scars after five years. This isn’t the only serious concern associated with IV drug injection.

Are There Other Dangers Of IV Drug Use?

Track marks are only one type of damage which can occur to a person’s skin, tissues, and organs from IV drug use. Additionally, a person could also develop:

  • Abscesses
  • Bacterial, fungal, and/or viral infections
  • Cardiac complications
  • Cellulitis
  • Collapsed veins
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots form in your veins)
  • Necrotizing fasciitis “flesh eating disease”
  • Organ damage

DrugRehab.org What Are Track Marks_ScarsInjection drug users face increased risk of blood-borne infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C.

Intravenous drug abuse requires intensive treatment. Due to the number of serious medical complications associated with IV abuse, many users need comprehensive medical care prior to, and during, treatment. Any underlying infections or diseases must be properly cared for. Wound care, antibiotics, and/or other medications or procedures may be administered to facilitate healing. Once any acute complications are addressed and a person is stabilized, they may then continue to drug addiction treatment.

How To Overcome IV Drug Addiction

Certain drugs, like heroin and prescription opioids, typically require detoxification prior to treatment. Many inpatient drug rehabs offer detox services at their facilities. After detox is completed, a person progresses into the treatment program.

These programs utilize counseling, behavioral therapies, and a wide variety of other modalities to treat the root of a person’s addiction. In order to combat the temptation of future drug use, relapse prevention techniques will also be taught. Combined, these elements work towards preparing you or your loved one for a more stable and healthy drug-free life.

Protect Your Body And Mind

Drug abuse and addiction don’t have to rule your life. The right treatment can help you regain control over your life and health. DrugRehab.org can help you to begin building a drug-free life, so that you can achieve these goals. Our caring staff can help you find the treatment program which is best for your unique needs. Contact us now.

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Signs Of IV Drug Use

DrugRehab.org Signs Of IV Drug Use

Intravenous, or IV drug use is the most common form of injection drug use. Users liquify and inject various drugs of abuse directly into their veins. The IV method requires certain tools called paraphernalia. These items can make this dangerous habit easier to spot. Over time, the drug user will begin to exhibit physical symptoms of IV drug use, such as scarred or collapsed veins. This method is highly dangerous, and can lead to addiction, disease (HIV/AIDS), coma, overdose, and death.

At a certain point in time, drug use can be surprisingly easy to hide. As use persists, however, it becomes increasingly difficult to cover up the signs of abuse. This is especially true with IV drug use, due to the method’s highly invasive nature.

What Types Of Drugs Do People Inject Intravenously?

While heroin is the most notorious drug used this way, you may be surprised to learn that drug abusers administer a wide variety of other drugs by this method. Cocaine (including crack), methamphetamine, and morphine are also frequently abused this way. Combining cocaine and heroin, or “speedballing,” is a common practice with recreational drug users.

DrugRehab.org Signs Of IV Drug Use Opioid Drug

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) writes that the following drugs of abuse are also injected:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Bath salts (synthetic cathinones)
  • DMT
  • Flakka
  • Ketamine
  • PCP

Additionally, and quite dangerously, a variety of prescription drugs are also used this way. Most of these medications come in a pill or tablet form which requires users to crush and liquify the drug.

Every form of opioid drug used in painkillers was listed by NIDA as being abused by injection. Examples include:

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)

Certain sedatives are also injected, such as:

Prescription stimulants, such as those used to treat ADHD, are frequently abused this way, including:

  • Amphetamine (Adderall)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

With the rise of prescription drug abuse, commonly abused medications are increasingly being manufactured with safeguards in place. These are designed to deter abuse by injection by making it more difficult.

What Are The Behavioral Cues Of IV Drug Use?

The general behavioral cues of IV drug abuse and addiction will be similar and may include a person:

  • Becoming evasive or upset if you ask about drug use
  • Being unable to stop or limit drug use
  • Going out of their way to find and use the drug
  • Experiencing intense urges or cravings to use the drug
  • Ignoring important responsibilities at work or school
  • Losing interest in their favorite things
  • Needing more of the drug than before to feel good (tolerance)
  • Pushing people away and/or suddenly having new “friends” (fellow drug users)
  • Spending money they can’t afford on the drug
  • Thinking or talking excessively about the substance
  • Hoarding, hiding, or stealing the drug
  • Doctor shopping to procure more of the drug (in the case of prescription medications)
  • Wearing long sleeves to cover up track marks even in warm weather

Despite being administered the same way, each drug of abuse has a different method of action. Because of this, physical and mental signs of abuse will vary. Drugs within the same class, such as opioids, will closely mimic each other. But on the other hand, stimulants such as cocaine would create a quite different impact in comparison to the depressant effects of an opioid.

What Is Drug Paraphernalia?

DrugRehab.org Signs Of IV Drug Use Different MethodWhen a drug abuser injects a drug, they need certain equipment. These items are collectively termed paraphernalia. Finding these objects can be a telltale sign that a person is engaging in IV drug use. The most obvious one would be a syringe (insulin syringes are frequently used). You might also find pill bottles, baggies, or balloons which contained the drugs.

It can be hard for a person to inject into the vein on their own. For this reason, some people choose to modify the syringe. If this occurs, they may replace the plunger with a bulb, such as those from an eyedropper or baby pacifier.

Paraphernalia may include:

  • Alcohol swabs to sterilize the injection site.
  • Material to filter the liquidized drug through (cigarette filters, cotton balls, or sterile filters which are made for this purpose).
  • Hard surface with powdery residue on it (from crushing and cutting pills). Mirrors are often used and may be in a strange place like on a bed or on the floor.
  • Razor blades (used to do the above).
  • An acidic agent (lemon juice, citric acid, or Vitamin C). These are used to help dissolve certain drugs.
  • A spoon or pop can for “cooking” or liquefying the drug. It may appear burnt.
  • A lighter used for heating the drug.
  • A tourniquet, such as a piece of rubbing tubing or a belt. These are used to enlarge the vein and make it more pronounced for injection.
  • Though more rare, some people may keep a “sharps bin” (a container for used needles) on hand.

Typically a person keeps these items all together in a kit. This may be a small box or bag. It is usually hidden out of sight, such as under the bed, in the closet, etc.

Be very careful when you’re touching these objects. In fact, we recommend that you not touch the items inside of the kit for any reason unless you absolutely have to. Injection needles can carry serious diseases. Also, certain drugs, especially those mixed with heroin, are so toxic and potent that they can absorb through the skin. This can lead to overdose and even death.

What Are The Physical Signs Of IV Drug Use?

Again, injecting a drug directly into your vein is very invasive. People most commonly inject into their forearm, however, users may also choose locations on their legs, neck, hands, feet, and groin. Soon after use, unhealed needle marks, scabs, or bruising may be evident.

Over time, a person’s skin and veins can become scarred, inflamed, and infected. They may even develop abscesses or ulcers. Receptively injecting a drug into the same site can cause vascular scarring. This is referred to as a “track mark.”

DrugRehab.org Signs Of IV Drug Use Toxic And Potent

Infections can become severe and lead to cellulitis or necrotizing fasciitis, which is sometimes referred to as a “flesh-eating disease.” In both, the skin will become red, swollen, and warm. Cellulitis may make skin appear taut and glossy. In the latter, patches of skin may become dark as tissues begin to die. Both conditions are serious and require prompt medical treatment.

According to Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research, users sometimes heat their needles just prior to injection. This leaves a dark, sooty residue at the injection site, referred to as a “sooting tattoo.” The article asserts that some people will actually get an inked tattoo to cover this up. This practice is used to hide the damage from injection sites in general.

If You See Signs Of IV Drug Abuse, Get Help

If you witness a combination of any of these signs within your loved one, be on guard: they could be abusing drugs. Don’t ignore these signs. The earlier you’re able to support them in making steps towards treatment, the better. We can help you with this. DrugRehab.org can give you more information on specific drugs of abuse and the best treatment centers for them. Reach out to one of our treatment specialists and let us help you today.

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