Injecting drugs can lead to HIV, Hepatitis C, addiction, ligament amputation, substance abuse disorders, withdrawal, and death. These consequences are painful for loved ones, and the person using the drug. Though some drugs can be used by smoking and snorting, injection is the fastest way to get the effects of the drug is into the bloodstream.
12 million people inject drugs worldwide, some continue living with addiction and can die, but some choose the easier route, and seek treatment.
What Is Injecting Drugs?
Injecting drugs is the act of putting a drug, in liquid form, right into the bloodstream to achieve the effects of the drug–this is done using a hypodermic needle and syringe or another source of injection. The most common street drug used for injection, or “shooting up”, is heroin, which is an opioid drug derived from the Asian opium plant and converted to morphine once in the body.
There are a variety of different drugs that can be injected to the bloodstream–some of these drugs used may not be commonly associated with addiction and injection.
What Drugs Can Be Injected?
A person using drugs can inject the following substances intravenously:
- Anabolic Steroids
- Cocaine and Heroin Mixture (Speedball)
Injecting drugs has a number of consequences and can cause death, HIV, Hepatitis C (HCV), amputation, drug withdrawal, and high blood pressure. Without proper treatment, a person addicted to a drug can be in serious danger. Sometimes there is nothing but intervention and professional medical treatment to keep a drug user safe.
Consequences Of Injecting Heroin
Injecting heroin can lead to a number of unwanted effects which are usually unavoidable by a person who chronically uses the drug. A chronic heroin user will become dependent on the drug, and their body and mind grow accustomed to its presence and the high associated with it.. Without the drug, a person will experience a withdrawal.
Drug withdrawal can sometimes be the biggest fear of a person suffering from heroin addiction. Injecting heroin can lead to itching, collapsed veins, pneumonia, nausea, constipation, and infection. The initial high from heroin is what brings people back, but if a person becomes addicted, they don’t know how to stop even when they want to. Injecting heroin often leads to overdose, coma, and death.
Consequences Of Injecting Cocaine
The fastest way to get the effects of drug into the blood is to inject it into the bloodstream, and though cocaine is most commonly associated with snorting or smoking, there are some users who prefer to shoot it up. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a person who regularly uses cocaine can experience “infection and death of bowel tissue from decreased blood flow; poor nutrition and weight loss from decreased appetite.”
Cocaine is more likely to lead to death from overdose when paired with alcohol. Some of the withdrawal symptoms may include, but are not limited to, depression, slowed thinking, faster heart rate, and insomnia.
Consequences Of Injecting Ketamine
Ketamine is a drug used for veterinarian practice, but for humans it can lead to hallucinations and a dreamlike state. Though it can be used to get high, Ketamine or “Special K” can also be used as a “date rape” drug. As described by the NIDA, Ketamine can lead to health problems like loss of memory, problems moving, unconsciousness, ulcers, kidney problems, stomach pain, and slow breathing which can lead to death.
Consequences Of Injecting Anabolic Steroids
Along with the various consequences of injecting drugs (see: Health Related Issues Of Injecting Drugs), Anabolic Steroids, which are typically used for medicine, come with a large list of health consequences. Steroids can be used in medicine to cure disease or inflammation, but a person can also abuse them for speeding up the process of building muscle tissue.
When used improperly, anabolic steroids can lead to delusion, stunted growth, heart attack, muscle development problems, or liver cancer. Steroids can also make a person overly aggressive. Along with these various health consequences, injecting steroids can cause unwanted side effects in both men and women:
Anabolic Steroids And Men
- Breast Development
- Shrinking of Testicals
- Male Pattern Baldness
Anabolic Steroids And Women
- Enlargement of Clitoris
- Excessive Growth of Body Hair
- Male Pattern Baldness
Other Health Related Issues Of Injecting Drugs
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, habitual users of injecting drugs may experience other consequences of using the drug:
- Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) – when a baby is born with a drug addiction, he or she is forced to be hospitalized. If a mother uses heroin or other drugs during pregnancy, there is nothing keeping the baby safe from addiction to the drug.
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – an incurable disease which can inhibit a body’s ability to fight infections. One of the most common causes of HIV is unprotected sex, but because HIV is transmitted through contact of blood and bodily fluids, it is often associated with sharing needles.
- Hepatitis C (HVC) – is a virus associated with liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis. HVC can be contracted in the same way as HIV, and therefore shared needles are a common cause.
More About Withdrawals From Injected Drugs
Usually, a person who suffers from addiction to the drug will be so afraid of the withdrawal symptoms (shakes, pain, restlessness, cold sweats, night terrors, anger.. etc.) from lack of the drug, that they will not seek help–the withdrawals from heroin can happen after a mere few hours without the drug. The severity of drug withdrawal can be so bad that it will bring people back to using–even if they say they are “going to stop.”
Amputations And Blood Infection From Injecting Drugs
A person who injects a drug is vulnerable to various other health consequences. Blood infections and bacterial infections can occur in the user from using dirty needles or from repeated injection of a drug. Sometimes when an inject-able drug is abused, it can block off the blood from the arm or leg and amputation is necessary.
In one study, by the National Institutes of Health, a drug user had been injecting a mixture of drugs into their artery near the foot, and within 24 hours, the blood had stopped flowing to the leg, and the only way to save the patient was to remove the leg. According to the same source, “the outcome after inadvertent injection depends on certain drug properties and the delay between injection and the beginning of therapy.”
How To Tell If A Person Is Injecting Drugs
A person who injects drugs is typically protective of their arms and legs. They almost always wear long sleeve shirts to cover up needle scars or “tracks”, but people can also shoot drugs into their feet, so this might not always be the case. A person who injects heroin might “nod out” frequently, or be in and out of consciousness.
A person who abuses cocaine might seem completely delirious and overly hyper. A drug user might do things that seem strange, like always taking their jacket into the bathroom or not showering with the rest of the team.
A person suffering from drug addiction might be dangerously defensive when confronted about their problem, so it might be wise not to go it alone if you’re looking to confront them about their problem. If you’re thinking about doing an intervention for a loved one and have questions, contact us at Vertava Health.
Treatment For Drug Addiction
There are an estimated 12 million people worldwide who inject drugs and 1.6 million of those people are living with HIV. If you’re worried that you or a friend is untreatable and too far gone, you are mistaken. The kind professionals at Vertava Health. can help you if you’re suffering from drug addiction, and though millions of people die or continue living with an addiction, there is treatment.