Needle Marks

Syringes and needles are among the most dangerous means of drug administration. Intravenous routes of drug administration deliver the injected substance directly into your bloodstream, thereby creating an almost immediate effect which is usually intense. This is why it is a popular means of substance abuse.

What Is an Intravenous Route Of Drug Use?

The intravenous route, or what is also known as IV drug use, means the drug is injected directly into the bloodstream, through the veins, by using a needle and a syringe. Using needles and syringes to inject drugs below the skin, or into the muscle, is not the same as the intravenous route, as these do not deliver the substance directly into the bloodstream.

The veins which are most often used are those which are in the crook of the arm. If you are injecting the drug yourself, you will normally inject the substance using your dominant hand to insert the needle into the other one’s blood vessel, because this makes it easier. Your dominant hand is the one you use more frequently, especially when writing. There are some who will have their friends or fellow drug users inject the drug for them into their dominant arm.

The groin, hand, foot, and leg are other locations in which users often inject drugs intravenously. I is possible to use different locations for injecting drugs if trying to hide the needle marks. Sometimes, people are forced to use a different location if the primary injecting site is becoming scarred or inflamed.

Such scarring or inflammations can be seen by others, thus the user hides them and transfers the injection zone into another vessel. This is one of the ways you can notice if a loved one is using heroin or other injectable substances.

What Type of Drugs Are Administered Intravenously?

Drugs which are commonly injected the IV route include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids
  • Ketamine
  • Methamphetamine

Some of these drugs are sometimes mixed and injected together. Drugs such as opioids are mixed with cocaine and heroin. While this can be extremely dangerous, some individuals do it for the added pleasurable effects.

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What Causes Needle Marks?

Needle marks are marks or scars which form on your skin after you inject a drug. These can be caused by:

Old needles: If you keep using the same needle over and over, it will eventually become blunt. This bluntness will mean you have to apply more pressure before the needle can pierce through your skin and vein. This increased pressure can cause increased damage to your skin and veins.

Chronic drug abuse: Using the same spot or site to inject drugs over a long period of time will lead to skin and vein damage in that location. This will eventually cause scar formation.

Impure drugs: Improperly processed drugs contain impurities and contaminants in them. Most illicit drugs are rarely properly purified, as they are usually mixed or cut with other substances. The toxins in them will eventually build up at the site where you inject, leading to dark-coloured needle marks.

What Do Needle Marks Look Like?

You can easily tell a drug abuser from their needle marks. However, it is important to note that needle marks can differ from individual to individual, depending on if you are a chronic user, and it also depends at what stage of healing the inflammation is at. Recent marks may look fresh as they have not yet healed and can appear as bruises and/or puncture marks. Older marks can appear discoloured and slightly raised and may run along the length of the vein. They may also show signs of infection if they are infected.

If not a regular user, the marks will be hard to notice as they will be small and not inflamed. Regular users, however, can also manifest scarring and seriously infected wound-like marks where they have been inserting the needle far too many times.

Do Needle Marks Go Away?

Needle marks do not always go away when you stop intravenous drug abuse. Some needle marks can still be visible after five years of stopping IV drug abuse. This depends on the different stage of inflammation and wounding reached while injecting. You may consider needle marks as scars.

There are programmes which can help you overcome IV drug abuse, and help you on your way to a healthier life. They will help you tamper off the drug use and slowly, but more securely, help your body and mind heal from the need of drugs.

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