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Drug Injection: Risks and Solutions

Posted on: October 8th, 2019

Drug Injection: People who have lived with addiction in their lives can face serious health consequences as a result of the long-term abuse sustained by their bodies. However, the way in which drugs are consumed can also have a significant impact on their physical health and wellbeing. Illicit drugs – such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine, PCP and more – can be absorbed by the body in different ways, including intravenously, into a person’s veins. Intravenous drug use tends to give people their “high” much faster because the drugs are injected directly into the bloodstream. Problematically, there are a number of risks involved with intravenous drug use.

Drug injection has been a major concern by health and addiction recovery professionals for decades. Studies have found that of people who abuse addictive substances like heroin, it takes about 6 years for them to begin injecting drugs into their veins. According to statistics, 13 million people inject drugs. Drug injection has been on the rise for far too long and is harming more people at an alarming rate- especially with dangerous substances being mixed into street level drugs, then injected by users. Prescription painkillers are becoming harder to obtain as a result of country wide governmental efforts to cut down overdoses and unnecessary addiction. Drugs like heroin, which are made up of the same opioid compounds as most prescription painkillers, have become a replacement drug – and with heroin use, commonly comes intravenous drug use.

With so many lives at stake and an opioid overdose death toll stretching close to 200,000 in five years, it’s important that we explore the health risks associated with intravenous drug use – and provide more support for our loved ones who are addicted to seek help sooner rather than later.

Often in addition to drug injection, comes subcutaneous injection, also known as “skin popping” which occurs when a person injects drugs directly into their skin. Of course, this is incredibly dangerous and places individuals at great health risks. Furthermore, drug injection can also be injected into muscle tissue. Needles and syringes are often used for this type of drug injection method, and many people with active addictions find that it becomes easier to share tools – unfortunately, this is very dangerous, and often what creates shared diseases and increased risk for death.

The sharing of needles from intravenous drug use can cause serious health conditions, such as HIV. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus transmitted through body fluids, in unprotected high-risk behaviors, which attacks the body’s immune system. Over time, HIV destroys the body’s immune system, impeding the body’s ability to ward off infections and diseases. Untreated HIV can escalate, and the condition progresses into full blown AIDS,

(Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). With AIDS, a person’s immune system is so significantly damaged that it becomes much easier for infections to occur, and ultimately an AIDS client will die.  There is not a current “cure” for HIV or AIDS but newer medication regimes are very good at arresting symptoms and permitting much longer life spans than when the disease was first diagnosed in the early 1980’s. Medications used to treat HIV positive individuals and clients with AIDS are called, ART or anti-retroviral medications or maintenance treatment.

Hepatitis C is another deadly disease that can occur from sharing used needles and from unprotected sexual activity that sometimes occurs without proper judgement while being “high” on drugs. Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease, and people who have this tend to experience a 75%-85% chance of developing other chronic infections. In fact, some people with chronic, untreated hepatitis C, go on to develop cirrhosis (scarring of the liver which causes it to malfunction), and is another difficult condition in and of itself.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every 100 people infected with Hepatitis C (HCV), 75-85 people will develop chronic hepatitis C.  Of those, 60-70 people will develop chronic liver disease; 5-20 people will develop cirrhosis over a period of 20-30 years; and 1-5 people will die from cirrhosis or liver cancer.

If a person develops Hepatitis C from needle sharing or unprotected sexual activity, there are a variety of symptoms that a person may experience such as fever, pain in the abdomen, bleeding, bloating, weight loss,  fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, joint pain and more. Ultimately, the sooner a person seeks treatment the sooner they’ll be able to prevent future health risks from occurring as well as a greater chance at recovery and improved health.

Intravenous drug use is increasingly common, but a person can reduce some of the risks involved if they seek professional help and treatment. For those struggling with addiction, Urban Recovery offers residential treatment programs to provide the caring and intensive support that those recovering need. Detoxification is often the first step, in which a person’s body naturally cleanses itself of the toxins acquired from drug use.

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