Injecting drugs with needles is a common way people abuse prescription and illicit drugs. According to UNAIDs, about 12.7 million people worldwide inject drugs. Injection delivers the drug straight into the bloodstream, producing an immediate “high.” However, it is particularly risky and should be avoided.
Those who find themselves unable to resist the urge to inject drugs should seek drug abuse treatment from reputable addiction centers and rehab centers.
Many people smoke, snort, or swallow heroin, meth, cocaine, and prescription drugs. However, some prefer IV injection because it is the fastest way to get the effects of the drug. Usually, one experiences the full effects of the drug within five to ten seconds of injecting. That’s because the drug bypasses the first-pass metabolism in the liver, leading to higher efficiency and bioavailability.
Ingesting drugs means having to wait for digestion and absorption to happen before it gets to the brain. This takes significantly more time to produce “high” effects. And while these effects might last longer, they’re usually less intense.
On the other hand, injected drugs only pass through the respiratory system before the blood gets to the brain. As a result, people get stronger, shorter-acting effects (aka rush) from the same amount of the drug.
The rush often levels out to a standard high in a few seconds and disappears within 15 to 20 minutes. Many users will keep using to try to experience the “high” a little longer. The bingeing behavior almost always leads to substance abuse problems.
That’s why it is essential for individuals who inject drugs to get immediate help. Drug rehabs offer both outpatient and inpatient treatment plans to help people who inject drugs, get clean.
What is injecting drugs?
Injecting drugs, also known as “IV drug use” or “intravenous drug use,” is the act of administering a drug right into the bloodstream to achieve the effects of the drug. It’s done through a hollow hypodermic needle and a syringe which is pierced through the skin into the body. The user typically pays little attention to the type of syringe or needle size.
Drugs that can be injected include:
- Cocaine and heroin mixture (Speedball)
- Prescription drugs like Fentanyl or Oxycodone
The procedure of injecting drugs with needles
Preparation may include mixing the drug (in powder or crystal form) with water to form a liquid solution. Users draw proportional amounts of water into a syringe and squirt it over the drugs in a tin or container. They then mix the solution and heat it if necessary.
Heating is mostly used with heroin (but not for all types of heroin) and other drugs, like crushed tablets. Powdered cocaine dissolves easily and doesn’t always need heat.
Individuals may use other liquid solutions to mix drugs that aren’t water-soluble. For instance, they’ll use ascorbic or citric acid to dissolve heroin from European markets. They’ll also use lemon juice or vinegar to shoot crack cocaine and make it water-soluble.
They’ll then use a small syringe to draw the solution through a cotton filter before injecting it into their bodies. Injecting also goes by other names like banging, smashing, slamming, shooting up, jacking up, or pinning, depending on the drug.
Side effects and dangers of shooting drugs
No mode of illicit drug administration is safe, but some are riskier than others. Here are some common risks associated with injecting drugs.
Risk of addiction
The initial high is what tends to bring people back to substance abuse. But if a person injects drugs regularly, the effects of the drug will gradually inhibit their brain’s ability to function normally. Addiction to illicit drugs happens fast. When it does, a person may not know how to stop, even when they want to.
At this point, the best way out is to get addiction treatment from reputable rehab programs. Treatment centers offer programs to help such individuals regain control and live a smart recovery. Whether it’s inpatient rehabs, group therapy, or outpatient care (or outpatient rehab) effective treatment through reputable rehabilitation programs is possible.
Risk of cutting agents
Pure cocaine and heroin appear as white powder. But these drugs are rarely sold or made available in their pure forms, at least not on the street. Dealers often cut these drugs with other substances that can range from cornstarch to hazardous substances or chemicals.
Some dealers even mix cocaine with heroin to form a speedball. The main problem with cutting drugs is not knowing what has been added. Some of the additives are toxic and could cause an allergic or severe reaction or lead to overdose. And the risk is even greater for those who shoot the drug with a needle.
Side effects of injecting illicit drugs
Most people snort or smoke illicit drugs. However, some prefer to inject it for immediate effects. But shooting these drugs has more side effects, on top of addiction. Here are some common ones.
Skin and soft tissue infections: repeated injections, lack of experience, poor hygiene, and unsterilized equipment may cause infections like skin ulcers, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, septic thrombophlebitis. One may also develop miscellaneous infections like botulism, tetanus, candida, and HIV/AIDs.
Collapsed veins: happens when veins close due to repeated IV injection on the same site, repeated infections, or trauma to the veins and surrounding tissues.
HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis C: happens when people injecting drugs share paraphernalia like swabs, spoons, needles, and syringes with infected individuals.
Artery rupturing: prescription pills have a protective coating that doesn’t dissolve. When these particles get in the vein, they get stuck and accumulate in arteries, including those in the brain and heart, wearing down the heart muscle.
Substance abuse treatment
The best way to prevent potential health issues from shooting drugs is to enroll in an alcohol and drug treatment facility. Chronic drug injection may need a detox protocol first to eliminate toxins from the body and manage the resulting withdrawal symptoms. Drug use issues will then be treated with counseling and behavioral therapies to address the emotional aspects of addiction.
People who inject drugs usually neglect their physical appearance. Treatment programs often encourage healthy lifestyle changes, including a fitness regime ,a balanced diet and health care if necessary. Family counseling and peer support groups, and educational opportunities also play an important role in addiction treatment.