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IV Drug Abuse and Recovery

IV Drug Abuse, Addiction, Rehab and Recovery

IV drug abuse and addiction are much bigger problems in the United States than most people realize. Many of these drugs are assumed to be available only in hospital settings. However, many of them can be found for sale on the street. While it might be hard to believe, healthcare professionals can even obtain them for misuse at home.

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Of course, illicit drugs are also used with this method. Users may inject the drugs directly into a vein, or into a muscle. Both ways of administration are common and extremely dangerous.

When people misuse intravenous drugs, they’re doing it for recreational purposes. These medications are mind-altering, and they result in an intense high. If IV drug use has become a problem for you, you need to know that. Perhaps you already new that, but you didn’t think there was anything you could do about it. We want you to know that it is possible to recover if you’re an addict.

What is the Intravenous Drug Use Definition?

According to Wikipedia, this form of drug use involves introducing a drug into the bloodstream. This is done by using a hypodermic needle and a syringe. The skin is pierced with the needle to allow the drugs to enter the body. This can be done intravenously, but it can also be done with intramuscular or subcutaneous injections. However, subcutaneous injections are much less common.

IV drug administration is quite popular because it allows for a much quicker high.

People usually feel it within the first few seconds. Drugs are generally much more bioavailable using this method. It allows them to bypass the liver, which means that the full effects are the drug are experienced.

Street Terms for This Method

There are a number of street terms used for IV drug use. These include:

  • Shooting up
  • Banging
  • Pinning
  • Slamming
  • Jacking up

IV Drugs List

There are so many drugs that can be injected into the body. As you look at this list, you’ll find that some of these are most often used in medical setting. Others are illegal drugs that many people prefer to inject.

IV Drug Abuse and Recovery

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse the most commonly abused IV drugs are:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDMA or Ecstasy
  • Ketamine
  • PCP
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Prescription Opiates (Morphine, Vicodin and Oxycodone, for example)

It should be noted that most people don’t begin by injecting these drugs. Many of them can be used in other ways to get high. Using a needle to administer them is something that people usually progress to. They’re seeking a more intense high, and this allows that to happen.

There are several different vein injection sites on the body. For many IV drug users, which veins they use are a matter of preference. Some people have veins that are easier to hit because they’re closer to the surface.

In general, people usually tend to choose the following sites for injecting these drugs into a vein:

  • The crook of the arm
  • Other locations on the arm
  • Veins in the hands
  • Legs and the backs of the knees
  • Veins in the feet

Online forums like Bluelight, Reddit and Erowid are filled with advice for new IV drug users. They even direct people to vein maps to help them find the perfect spots for injections.

Intramuscular injections aren’t quite as popular as vein injections. However, there are those who prefer them for a few reasons. They may feel more comfortable with injecting into a muscle, rather than a vein. Some people may get a better high that way also.

The most common places to inject drugs into a muscle are:

  • The arm in the deltoid muscle
  • The vastus lateralis muscle in the thigh
  • The hip in the ventrogluteal muscle
  • The dorsogluteal muscle of the buttocks
  • The rectus femoris, which is a quadriceps muscle

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Complications From IV Drug Use

Injecting drugs and medications may produce a better high, but it also comes with many complications.

These medications can lead so many problems, depending on the drug. They include:

  • IV abscesses at the administration sites
  • Serious vein damage
  • Various infections, including blood infections
  • Blood clots
  • Endocarditis
  • The risk of sepsis
  • Collapsed veins
  • Hardened veins

Of these, infections and collapsed veins are among the most common. Some of the more common infections include:

  • Staph infections
  • Cellulitis
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Botulism
  • Abscesses
  • Tetanus
  • Septic thrombophlebitis
  • Hepatitis C
  • Bacterial endocarditis
  • HIV
  • Cotton fever

If you do develop an infection, you’re likely to have many of the more common symptoms. These can include:

  • Increased swelling around the injection site
  • Pain, redness and warmth in that area
  • Red streaks that come from the area
  • Pus drainage
  • A low or high-grade fever

You could also develop some more serious signs that indicate a specific infection. For example, you could begin having chest pain, seizures, or breathing problems.

When IV drug abusers repeatedly inject drugs, collapsed veins become fairly common. Their veins simply cannot continue to handle this type of drug use. When they do occur, the following symptoms are likely:

  • Cold hands and feet because they are losing circulation
  • A sharp pain at the site of the injection
  • The area becomes black and blue
  • Intense itching at the injection site
  • Swelling at the site

“I Shot Up and Missed”: What to do if You Miss a Vein While Shooting Up

Missing a vein while slamming IV drugs is something that occurs pretty frequently. It’s very easy to miss veins; especially when you’re not a trained medical professional. It can even happen to someone who has been using IV substances for years.

If this happens to you, you need to pull back. Don’t try to inject again, or use the drugs with another method. This could inadvertently lead to an overdose. You should place a cold compress over the area and assess how you’re feeling. If you’re worried, you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

In most cases, you’ll probably develop an abscess or infection at the injection site. If so, you’ll need to get medical treatment. If you develop any of the above signs of infection, these are signs you need to see a doctor.

Why do People Abuse Intravenous Drugs?

An addiction can occur at any point once abuse has begun, and it's different for every person, and every substance. Once an addiction has taken hold, it's not possible for users to stop. In fact, they feel compelled to use their substance of choice, whether that's prescription medication, illegal drugs or alcohol.

People who don’t abuse intravenous drugs often have a hard time understanding why anyone would. It seems as though there is just so much risk involved. For abusers, they do it because they’re desperate for the high. It’s possible that they’re not able to experience it any other way.

The term IV drug abuse indicates that an addiction has not yet formed. These individuals may not feel as compelled to use intravenous drugs as someone with an addiction.

However, due to the nature of this type of drug use, the abuse time window is probably quite small.

It’s quite likely that anyone who abuses these drugs and medications is already an addict. They may know that using these drugs through an IV or a shot is dangerous. They may even want to stop, but they’re just not able to.

As you are probably aware, IV drug use is dangerous. Every time someone uses substances in this manner, they’re taking their life in their hands. Even so, the need to use is much greater than the risks involved.

Even the most experienced drug user runs the risk of overdosing with every use of these substances. The risk of infection is great because it only takes a small amount of bacteria to cause a problem. There are long-term health risks associated with injecting drugs as well. HIV is a common infection that is spread this way.

Of course, the most obvious danger is the risk of addiction. People who inject drugs are very likely to become addicted to them very quickly. Once they’re addicted, stopping on their own is nearly impossible.

Symptoms of Needle Drug Use

There are several fairly obvious symptoms that someone is using needle drugs. These include:

  • Developing track marks on the arms
  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather to hide the track marks
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and responsibilities at home
  • Becoming irritable
  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety
  • Feeling either hyperactive or lethargic
  • Developing swollen hands and feet

People who abuse these types of drugs often have a lot of paraphernalia lying around as well. It’s pretty easy to find syringes, tissues with bloodstains on them, burned spoons, burned aluminum foil, cotton balls and random shoelaces. When these materials are present, the assumption is that the individual shoots up.

Will Misusing Drugs in This Way Lead to an Addiction?

Yes, and not only will abusing intravenous drugs this way lead to an addiction, but it will be quick. When these drugs enter the bloodstream without being filtered, the high is intense. This is because large amounts of endorphins are released as a result. When this occurs, the brain will eventually stop making endorphins on its own.

Without those “feel-good” chemicals being released in the brain, people no longer feel like themselves.

They feel compelled to use in order to feel normal again. They experience cravings for the drug and become obsessed with using it.

Addiction Statistics and Facts

The addictions statistics surrounding IV drug use are quite staggering. According to the World Health Organization:

13 Million

There are around 13 million people across the globe who currently inject drugs. Of these individuals, 7 million of them are living with HIV.


For these drug users, injecting drugs accounts for about 10% of the causes behind HIV. About 67% of people who inject drugs have Hepatitis C.

2 Million

About 2 million people worldwide have both Hepatitis C and HIV. More than half of these individuals got these infections because they inject drugs.

To help to reduce harm, many states have implemented safe needle exchange sites. These sites have helped to some degree. However, there is so much more that needs to be done to eliminate this problem.

What Happens if You Become Addicted to IV Drugs?

If you become addicted to intravenous drugs, it’s important to understand how serious this problem is. You probably won’t be able to stop using on your own. You could attempt to quit, but the risk of relapsing and then overdosing is just too high.

If this is the situation you’ve found yourself in, getting professional help is the best course of action. You need the guidance of addiction treatment professionals in order to recover safely. An IV drug rehab facility is your best bet for a safe and successful recovery.

Denial is incredibly damaging when someone suffers from an addiction. However, most addicts will live in denial for years. They fully believe that addiction is something that happens to other people. It could never happen to them. Perhaps this is a way of thinking that you’re familiar with too.

The truth is that you need to know and understand your relationship with IV drugs. If you’re an addict, acting quickly is the best way to begin your recovery. If you put it off, your addiction will only grow stronger. It will never simply go away or get better on its own. It might help you to know what the signs of addiction to intravenous drugs are. They include:

  • The presence of track marks in various places on the skin
  • Constricted pupils, even when the light is dim
  • Becoming obsessed with using these substances
  • Stealing money in order to afford intravenous substances
  • Chronic fatigue and “nodding off”
  • Losing a lot of weight
  • Skin that takes on a pale color
  • Digestive problems
  • Dental issues

Do you have any of these signs of an IV drug addiction? If you do, then you are most likely an addict in need of help to recover.

If you’re still not sure, you could try taking a quiz to learn more. This drug addiction quiz can be very informative, and it will help you understand what steps you should take next.

IV Drug Addiction Rehab Centers Offer Help for Recovery

Most people who attempt to quit using intravenous drugs on their own are not successful. They typically can’t handle the intense withdrawal symptoms they experience. As a result, they go back to using.

IV drug users know how to obtain these drugs when they relapse. They’ve made the right contacts, and they know who to get them from.

This is why going to a treatment center for intravenous drug addicts is the best plan. There, these individuals will receive unconditional support. There will be no opportunity to relapse in this type of setting either.

Withdrawal Symptoms From Needle Drugs

There are so many different types of needle drugs, so it’s impossible to name all of the withdrawal symptoms. However, opioids are some of the more common drugs used intravenously. While symptoms may vary, many of the typical opioid withdrawal symptoms apply to most IV drugs.

For opioids, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Experiencing abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle and body aches
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Anger and agitation
  • Problems sleeping at night

People will generally have intense cravings for their drug of choice as well. Cravings and other symptoms are very difficult to overcome on your own.

Intravenous Drug Treatment Programs and How Detoxing Can Help You

Detoxing is a way to help your body get through the withdrawal phase. For a lot of people, withdrawal symptoms pass much quicker. Also, many symptoms can be professionally controlled with a variety of methods.

IV drug detox is a part of any recovery program for this type of addiction. It is the very first step because addressing the physical side of the addiction is vital.

Drug detox can be done in a few different ways. For those who are using prescribed medications, they may be given the drug in tapered dosages over time. This allows their bodies to adjust to having less of the drug at a slow rate.

Additional medications may be given to help with withdrawal symptoms. However, if a holistic detox is chosen, these medications will be avoided. There are risks involved with medical detox. This is why it’s not the optimal solution for everyone. There is always the chance of developing a secondary addiction to the new medications.

ou can choose to go through withdrawal on your own. However, this method is never recommended. The chances of your being successful are very small. Most people only make it through a couple of days without their IV drugs before they suffer a relapse.

It’s much safer for you to work with professionals. They understand what it will take for you to recover safely. Their goal is to help you through every step of your journey.

What Type of IV Drug Rehab Program is Necessary if You Want to Quit?

There are several different types of intravenous drug treatment programs. The right one for you will depend on what you need. Most people are hopeful for an outpatient program.

While these treatment programs are good, IV drug users usually need a higher level of care. Quite often, they have home situations that would make it too hard for them to quit with outpatient rehab.

You’ll most likely find that an inpatient treatment center is much more appropriate for your needs. You may be placed in a 30-day inpatient treatment program, or a long-term rehab. Both are excellent, and will help you reach your recovery goals.

Afterwards, you’ll be instructed to follow up at an outpatient rehab. This will allow for you to continue working on your recovery.

Once you go to a needle drug rehab program, you’ll be introduced to staff and given an assessment. Most people receive a preliminary assessment over the phone. However, this in-person assessment is important during your intake.

After your assessment, you’ll meet with members of the medical team for an evaluation. If you have any health problems, these can be addressed and treated at this time. Very soon after this, your treatment will begin. For most people, this means starting drug detox.  

You’ll be guided every step of the way. After detox is completed, you’ll begin working on the psychological part of your addiction. This will involve regular therapy sessions with your counselor and group therapy. Other forms of therapy will also become a part of your treatment plan.

With so many different rehab centers, how do you know which one is right for you? It can be confusing to choose when you have so many options.

You will want to choose a treatment facility that’s accredited. This means that the quality of care is excellent. You’ll also want to find one that participates with your health insurance plan. This will drastically reduce your out of pocket costs.

Finally, opt for a center that gives each patient his or her own, unique treatment plan. Your addiction is very personal, and your treatment plan should be as well.

Addiction Help is Available: Find an IV Drug Rehab Facility Near You

Above all, you need to know that addiction help is available for you. Withdrawing from IV drugs is so difficult, and most people can’t recover on their own. At Northpoint Recovery, we’re here to assist you.

Do you have more questions you’d like to have answered about intravenous drug use, addiction and treatment? If you do, we can help you get the answers you’re looking for. Please contact us today.

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