The dangers of intravenous drug use are well documented. Although most available information focuses on the very high risk of overdose and the diseases associated with sharing needles (both very real dangers), injecting drugs can also be incredibly harmful to the body in many other ways.
Shooting Up is no Laughing Matter
Even the most experienced, careful intravenous drug user is not immune to the havoc that needles can psychically cause to veins and blood flow.
After prolonged injection, issues such as thrombosis become more common. Thrombosis occurs when a vein’s blood flow is increasingly disrupted, creating blood clots in the lining of the vein. Eventually the vein can become completely blocked by these clots, transforming the veins into scar tissue. This is commonly referred to as a collapsed vein. For this reason, the most experience, careful intravenous drug user is also apt to explore new injection sites.
Whether it’s an effort to locate undamaged veins or to conceal drug use, intravenous drug users commonly resort to dangerous injection sites.
Problems by IV Injection Site
While injecting drugs is already incredibly risky, these three injection sites should never be used under any circumstances.
Feet: The veins of the feet are popular injection sites for many. Not only are these veins easy to locate, the feet are inconspicuous, and the injection site is easy to conceal. However, injecting into the feet does carry associated risks. Although the veins in the feet may look large, these veins are actually very thin and have a tendency to burst under pressure. In addition, blood circulation to the feet is very slow, which slows a foot’s ability to heal, leading to abscesses and infections when damage occurs to these veins.
Femoral Vein (Groin): The femoral vein runs up both legs and through the creases of your upper thigh and groin. In the crease of the groin, the veins are shallow enough to tempt some intravenous drug users to use this location. This injection site is very dangerous. The femoral vein runs incredibly close to the femoral artery and the femoral nerve. If you hit the femoral artery, a large amount of frothy, bright red blood will rush into the barrel. In some cases, hospitalization may be required to stop the bleeding. The femoral nerve controls leg and muscle movement, so damaging this nerve can result in serious problems with mobility or even paralysis.
Neck: The neck is arguably the most dangerous injection site, as arteries, veins, tendons and nerves are incredibly close together. Although the neck has the same risks of other locations, such as abscesses and collapsed veins, an abscess in the neck puts serious pressure on nerves and can block your air passage. Nerve damage to the neck can also result in vocal chord paralysis. In addition, if you hit an artery in your neck, the injecting chemicals will shoot directly into the brain, potentially causing a range of neurological problems or a stroke.
Due to the high risk of overdose and the risks associated with shared needles, using drugs intravenously is never safe under any circumstances. However, these three injection sites considerably heighten the risk of irreparable bodily harm and death.
Additional Reading: Dangers of IV Drug Use: What You Need to Know About Track Marks