There are a variety of different methods people can use in order to take drugs. They can take some drugs orally, swallowing pills whole or crushing them into a paste before choking down the contents. They can crush the pills and snort them into nasal passages, putting potent drugs into direct contact with sensitive tissues. Some drugs can even be lit on fire and smoked, or they can be heated so the rising vapor can be inhaled. Any of these methods could bring a user the hit that’s desired, but sometimes, that hit doesn’t seem strong enough or it doesn’t come on quick enough. For users like this, an injectable format becomes desirable.
When outsiders think of IV drug users, they think of people who are so debilitated by addiction that they can’t work or function. They might even think of people who are living in the criminal justice system, due to the decisions they’ve made regarding their drug use.
While it’s true that many people who engage in IV drug abuse have advanced cases of addiction, people with this habit may not be so debilitated that their addiction is obvious. In fact, in a study in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, researchers found that 46 percent of IV drug users had no history of drug abuse treatment, and 16 percent hadn’t been arrested in the 10 years prior. Additionally, nine percent hadn’t been through treatment and hadn’t been arrested. This seems to indicate that many IV drug users hide their use successfully, suffering in silence.
Unfortunately, IV drug use is so very dangerous and so very damaging that people who engage in this practice rarely hide their habits forever. Often, their health problems become so very extreme that they’re forced to get help, and the source of those health problems becomes impossible for anyone to ignore.
Sources of Damage
Any illicit drug has the capacity to do major damage to the body’s vital systems. Amending signals in the brain and tweaking chemical levels in the blood can leave behind a little seed of damage that can soon blossom into an intense feeling of pain and dysfunction. IV drug users aren’t immune to this kind of problem, but they may also have specific health concerns due to the method they use in order to take in those damaging drugs.
Many substances IV users inject simply aren’t made to enter the bloodstream. They’re pills that are meant to be swallowed, for example, or they’re made up of tiny particles of chemicals that aren’t supposed to enter the body at all. In order to prepare these drugs for a needle, IV users often crush the substances and add them to water, and then they pull the mixture through some sort of filter, such as:
- Cotton balls
- Surgical gauze
- Cigarette butts
- Dryer sheets
These are imperfect filters at best, and they could leave tiny little particles behind that could enter the bloodstream. Those little bits can band together into pockets that can cause infections or tumors. Additionally, injecting a substance that’s been made in a DIY laboratory and passed through a rickety filter could mean injecting all sorts of bacteria into the veins and arteries. Site infections can quickly follow, and veins can puff up with bacteria or close up.
Needles are also difficult to come by, meaning that people with an IV habit are often forced to share equipment with other people who also use and abuse drugs. Of IV drug users studied for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2006 and 2008, 13 percent of users injected with a needle that they knew had been used by another drug addict. Less than one-third of these users attempted to clean the needle in any way. It’s likely that people who share needles are also sharing blood, as one tiny droplet of blood tends to stick around when the injection is complete. This could lead to blood-borne infections, including HIV/AIDS or a form of hepatitis.
People who inject drugs may know all too well that their behaviors aren’t healthy, but they may find it difficult to stop. The drugs seem to provide them with a jolt they can’t get in any other way, and even as their bodies begin to shut down, they may still look for new places in which to inject. A study in the journal Emergency Radiology describes people who inject drugs right into their throats, since they have no open veins available. Other articles have described users who inject into the groin or even the chest.
These acts may seem desperate, and thankfully, they’re not inevitable. People who are behaving in this way may benefit from participating in a targeted program for addiction in which they examine why they chose to take in drugs, and then learn skills that can keep them from abusing drugs in the future. Medical help may be required to soothe the physical damage an IV habit can cause, but therapy can help ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future.
If you need help with an IV drug abuse problem, please call us at Black Bear Lodge. We can explain how therapy works, and why it might be helpful for you and your family. We can even help you to arrange transportation from your home to our facility. Just call to find out more.