Why do People Inject Drugs?
There are a number of reasons for drug use, that’s a list that goes on endlessly. But that’s a discussion for a different time.
We’re talking about the reasons why people inject drugs, specifically. Most drugs can be consumed in a number of ways, including injecting them, ingesting them orally, snorting them, smoking them, or even just rubbing them on the gums. Heroin is the most commonly injected drug, but any opiate, and many other substances, can be injected if prepared properly.
Injecting drugs means getting them into liquid form and injecting them with a needle, usually directly into a vein. But most people hate needles, so why in the world would people choose to inject them?
Well, the reason for any drug user to use their substance of choice is to get the dopamine rush that comes with the use of that drug. They use the drug, it makes them feel good, and they get satisfaction from that use.
What injecting the drug does is it makes that payoff faster, stronger, and more intense. Addiction causes people to constantly look for more of the substance, or a stronger way to experience the substance, as they build up tolerance. So once they feel the exhilaration of a direct injection of the substance to their veins, it’s tough for them to go back to less-intense ways of experiencing the drug.
For them, it’s all about experiencing the most intense high they can get.
But there are serious risks to injecting any drug, most of which are stacked on top of the existing risks of the drug itself.
The Injection Itself Causes Damage to the Body
Let’s remove the drugs from the equation entirely for a moment. Simply sticking a needle into the body, regardless of its contents, is potentially harmful. Repeated injections to the same area will damage the skin and veins in that area, which is why heroin users need to constantly rotate injection points to “tap.”
Repeated injections can cause:
- Internal bleeding
- Serious ulcers or abscesses.
These are all just examples of what can happen if the injection is performed properly. In really serious situations, repeated injections or poorly-performed injections can cause a vein to collapse, which can temporarily or permanently block the vein and cause your entire body’s circulation to re-rout. Many times, the vein eventually unblocks itself, but in some cases, the vein never recovers and remains blocked forever.
In addition to all this, injections to particular areas of the body carry unique risks. For example, an injection in the neck can potentially cause a stroke.
These are all potential drawbacks related simply to the needle itself. But of course, there isn’t anybody out there just sticking an empty needle into their veins – they’re always filled with something. And with as harmful as drug use is in any context, injecting drugs is more harmful than consuming them in other ways, for a number of reasons.
Injecting Drugs is the Most Dangerous Way to Use Them
A direct injection into the veins means the body has absolutely no opportunity to filter the substance from your body. Every other entry point to your body has a way of filtering out materials that your body deems to be harmful.
Your entire digestive system is a series of filters to give parts of your body the nutrition it needs, while filtering out toxins and other unneeded materials. Your lungs filter harmful materials from the air you breathe. Everything you consume goes through a process before it hits your bloodstream – including drugs.
But when you inject those drugs directly, you’re bypassing that process, and putting a substance directly into the area of your body where it can be the most potentially harmful. That puts you more at risk of a number of undesirable side effects.
As we’ve already discussed, injecting drugs provides the most powerful “high.” That’s why people inject drugs in the first place. But there’s another side to this. Because an injection of drugs provides the strongest high, it also carries the greatest risk of addiction. Addiction changes your body’s chemistry, and at no point does that happen faster than when you put the body-altering chemicals into it directly.
This is the result of putting the drugs into your system without any filter – they can change your body and make it dependent on the substance without any of your natural processes mitigating it.
More importantly, injecting drugs greatly increases the risk of overdose. This is especially true with heroin and other sedative drugs. Street drugs are especially dangerous, since there is no way to know for sure what the purity and strength of the drug is. Someone might use heroin from one batch and be fine, then use the same amount from a different batch, and overdose immediately.
Because there is no official oversight of street drug production, users are at the mercy of whatever they receive. And in those cases, regardless of how the drug is cut, they’ll inject it directly into their bloodstreams without a second thought. That’s a lot of safety precautions removed. They are basically injecting foreign, unchecked substances past the body’s filtering mechanisms.
If these substances are even slightly off, your body has no way of dealing with the backlash, as you’ve taken away it’s ability to filter out harmful materials.
And this is especially dangerous because often times, hypodermic needles are carrying more than just drugs into your bloodstream.
How Hypodermic Needles Carry Diseases and Infections
Many times, the drug in the barrel isn’t the most harmful thing a needle puts into your blood. Needles are also one of the most common methods of spreading blood-borne illnesses.
In fact, more than 10 percent of annual HIV cases stem from injected drug abuse. Sharing drug paraphernalia can lead to the spread of HIV, Hepatitis, and many other diseases that are transmitted through bodily fluids. Sharing needles or other equipment, or even failing to properly sterilize the equipment before injecting it is a good way to potentially spread these harmful diseases.
In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a needle that’s shared. Sometimes just sharing a spoon to prepare the drug is enough to spread these infections. Any equipment used for injection should be sterilized, and never, ever shared.
Of course, even if you’re just using by yourself, you’re not necessarily in the clear. Many illicit drug dealers will take used needles and repackage them as new ones for resale, which puts buyers at risk for whatever kinds of infections may be on those needles.
The danger of using needles isn’t simply limited to the risk of major diseases, either. Honestly, simply using an unsterilized needle puts you at risk of infection. Again, you are putting substances directly into your body while bypassing any and all of your body’s natural defenses. Even a hint of something harmful on a needle is going to be carried and amplified throughout your body.
Getting Help for Your Injected Drug Problem
If you’re at a point where you are injecting drugs to feed your addiction, you might have a problem you need help with.
That help exists, and now that you better understand the dangers of injecting drugs, you should be more motivated than ever to obtain it.
If you or someone you know has a problem with injected drug use, or any other sort of substance abuse, please contact us. We are ready to work with people at all stages of addiction to help them get their lives back on track.