Intravenous drugs, or drugs that are taken by injecting the substance directly into the body, are some of the most dangerous drugs out there. Yet for many types of drugs, like heroin, one of the most common and preferred ways of taking them is via injection.
Addicts who use intravenous drugs usually do so because of the powerful and fast-acting effects of the high. They will likely never consider the health risks or permanent damage they’re becoming susceptible to by using drugs in this way.
By continuing to puncture their skin on a regular basis, an intravenous drug user opens themselves up to the risk of scarring their skin. Over 75% of IV drug users are estimated to develop round scars, known as “pop scars”, that may never go away, even if the user reaches sobriety.
Skin infections are also very common for intravenous drug users. One study showed that 55% of heroin users reported at least one skin infection in their lifetime, while they were injecting drugs.
Most injectable drug users don’t clean the skin or sterilize needles before administering the drug, which opens them up to the possibility of a skin infection, among other things. Practicing good hygiene reduces the risk but doesn’t eliminate it, as the substance itself may be contaminated.
Endocarditis is one of the more common heart conditions an intravenous drug user may develop. It’s characterized by an inflammation of the interior lining of the heart.
Bacteria from a lack of sanitized needles can cause endocarditis in an intravenous drug user. Heart valves on the right side of the body are most often affected, as most drug users inject the substance into veins that lead directly to the right side of the heart.
Endocarditis can be life-threatening, especially if left untreated.
HIV or AIDS are autoimmune diseases that can be caused when coming into contact with bodily fluids from someone who has either condition. By sharing needles, people who inject drugs are at a higher risk of contracting HIV or AIDS.
Intravenous drug users are also the highest risk group for contracting hepatitis C, while as many as 25% of users contracted hepatitis B in 2014.
Risk of Overdosing
Injecting drugs into the body produces the greatest risk of overdose.
As it produces the feeling of a more intense high much quicker than other methods of administration, it can be difficult for the user to gauge exactly how much of the drug they’re putting into their body. Because of this, it’s easier to accidentally overdose.