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Signs of Intravenous Drug Use

signs of intravenous drug use

There are several ways to use drugs, but only one method is referred to as intravenous or “IV” drug use. Injecting a drug directly into the veins is a highly dangerous way to consume a substance and can lead to addiction, disease, and overdose. If you see the signs of IV drug use in someone you care about, drug addiction treatment at Vertava Health can help. Call Vertava Health today at 844.470.0410 to learn more about our comprehensive treatment programs.

What Types of Drugs Are Taken with IV Injection?

Many drugs can be dissolved in liquid and consumed through IV use. Heroin is the illegal drug most commonly taken intravenously in the U.S. Other substances taken intravenously include:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Adderall and other prescription amphetamines
  • Oxycodone
  • Naloxone
  • Ketamine
  • Barbiturates
  • Anabolic steroids
  • PCP
  • Bath salts (synthetic cathinones)

IV injection is often preferred by those using illicit drugs because substances that enter directly through the bloodstream reach the brain faster than drugs that are digested and produce a faster, more intense high.

Feelings of euphoria caused by IV drug injections are intense but do not last long. That is why bingeing is one of the signs of intravenous drug use. The most pleasurable effects of IV drug injections typically last only about 20 minutes, depending on the substance.

The Physical Signs of IV Drug Use

Veins all over the body, including in the feet and hands, legs, neck, and groin, can be accessed for IV drug use. The large veins in the forearm are the most common injection sites.

As individuals use the same locations over and over again, it can cause bruising, scabs, and scars. These small wounds can also become infected, creating abscesses and ulcers.

Other signs of drug injection include:

  • Vascular scarring (called “tracks”)
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Cellulitis
  • Red, swollen, or warm bumps on the skin

Wearing long sleeves when not appropriate for the weather could be a sign that someone is trying to hide the marks and telltale signs of IV drug use.

The vein damage caused by repeated IV drug use is only one of the many health concerns associated with intravenous injections. Injecting into the femoral or pulmonary veins can cause arterial bleeding, septicemia, deep vein thrombosis, and other complications.

More Signs of Drug Injection: The Paraphernalia

One of the most obvious yet often-overlooked signs of intravenous drug use is being in possession of certain paraphernalia. Some of the equipment used to inject drugs are common household items, such as isopropyl alcohol or cotton balls. Other paraphernalia to watch for include:

  • Cigarette Filters: Used to filter the liquidized material
  • Acids: Used to dissolve some substances
  • Spoons that Are Bent and May Look Burnt: Used for “cooking” drugs
  • A Piece of Rubber Tubing, Belt, or Strong Cloth: Used as a tourniquet
  • Hypodermic needles
  • A Hand Mirror or Other Small, Hard Surface: Used for cutting or crushing pills into powder
  • A “Sharps” Bin: A container for depositing used needles

These items are usually kept together in a small bag or kit for easy use and transport. If you find any of these signs of drug injections, especially needles, do not touch them. Injection needles can carry serious infectious diseases, such as HIV or hepatitis.

Vertava Health Can Help with IV Drug Addiction

If you have seen signs of intravenous drug use by someone you care about, reach out to the caring team at Vertava Health. Our experienced rehab teams have the expertise to care for the physical, emotional, and psychological needs of those who have been harmed by IV drug use. Call Vertava Health today at 844.470.0410 to learn more.