Shooting Up: How Far Would You Go For a Fix?

When avoiding withdrawal is all that matters, caution goes out the window.

IV drug users can quickly find themselves in desperate situations. They often lack clean needles, pure water and other supplies needed to shoot up, prompting many of them to improvise. And for a large segment of the population, improvising means using whatever is handy in order to “get well.” In that moment, the fear of withdrawal is so great that nothing else matters.

Even under the safest conditions, IV drug use is dangerous. When you throw DIY gear into the mix, however, the dangers only escalate – often resulting in disease, infection or death.

The Necessity of Invention?

Regardless of the inherent dangers, the following DIY tools have been utilized when injecting drugs:

  • Toilet Water: Water is a necessity for IV drug use. If you don’t have a clean bottle of water lying around, you’ve got to get it somewhere, right? The rationalization for using water straight out of a toilet water goes a little something like this: “Hey, it’s clean water. It comes from the same pipes that feed the sinks, right?” And while that’s technically true, technicalities do not make for clean water. It may be the same water coming OUT, but the things that go INTO the sink are NOT the same things that go into the toilet. But, in desperate need of water to cook drugs like heroin or OxyContin, many users have turned to this easily accessible public well.
  • Discarded Needles: Clean, new needles can be hard to come by. Despite knowing that sharing needles is an extremely risky option, it happens all the time. As fewer needle exchange operations become available, some IV drug users have resorted to collecting discarded needles from alleys or sidewalks. Sure, they wipe the dirty needles with alcohol, but that doesn’t make the needles sanitary. Sadly, this practice is the culprit for infections and diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis C.
  • The Binky: Needles might be hard to come by in prison, but that certainly hasn’t stopped inmates from shooting up. In fact, inmates have gotten pretty creative. Using a pen, a paper clip, the broken tip of a needle, a lighter, dental floss and a bottle of Visine, inmates create shoddy (and contaminated) syringes on the inside. And since these inventions, known as binkies, are made from items that aren’t found in every cell, the DIY needles are usually shared.
  • Frantic Filters: Cotton is generally used as a filter when drawing a cooked or liquefied drug into the syringe. If cotton balls aren’t available, other filtering agents are used – like cigarette filters, Q-tips, coffee filters and tampons. The idea is to use something that filters the small particles out of the drug, making it safer to inject. The problem is that the filters are repurposed time and time again, getting more contaminated with each use.

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