Drug Concern accepts that a number of people choose to inject substances as part of their drug use. What this page will do is provide you with information that will reduce the risks associated with injecting drug use.
Injecting drug use
This is only a guide, if you are an injecting drug user and are not in contact with Drug Concern we would encourage you take that step. Our services are free and confidential.
If you have already made the decision to inject substances then you will already have some experience with needles. If you haven't made that decision, don't rush into it. It's a well researched fact that once people start to inject substances the severity of addiction increases, usually this means that trying to balance drug use and other areas of life becomes difficult. Sometimes this balance isn't achieved and results in chaos.
Much of the information you will read on this page is taken from "The Safer Injecting Briefing" available from Exchange Supplies.
If you are injecting remember to give your veins a rest. If it's unrealistic to smoke the substance or use it via another route make sure you use different veins and always use a newly opened needle. If you miss a hit and continue to use the same needle, the needle becomes more blunt with each attempt; this increases the damage to veins. Repeated use of the same veins will result in damage, which if persists, may result in permanently blocked veins.
Veins become damaged or blocked if ,
- The same site is used repeatedly
- Blunt needles are used
- As a result of poor injecting technique
- As a result of injecting substances which contain irritants
- Using a needle too large for the vein
If you have been injecting for some time and it looks as though new, smaller veins are appearing. You should avoid using these to inject substances. These are small blood vessels which are now under greater pressure to carry your blood around. If these vessels are injected into and become damaged the flow of blood becomes even more restricted which can result in ulcers, gangrene and local infection.
'Missed Hits' are usually referred to when swelling appears around the site immediately after injection.
If this occurs it could mean,
- The needle did not enter the vein properly
- The needle entered the vein and slipped out again
- The needle went through both sides of the vein
- The needle went in correctly but excess pressure caused the vein to split.
A missed hit will mean the drug will be absorbed much more slowly (meaning the effects won' t be as pronounced). Missed hits can also cause Abscesses, cellulitis and granulomas.
Missed hits can be prevented by using the correct equipment and technique.
Injecting drug use is considered to be high-risk behaviour for the transmission of viruses, particularly blood borne viruses and HIV.
- Always use clean works (includes spoons, filters and other paraphernalia. Not just needles), preferably that you have got from the exchange for yourself.
- Always practice good personal hygiene when preparing for injection, during and after.
- Remember to rotate the injection sites so that your veins get a rest.
- We appreciate it's difficult but never be in a rush when using drugs in this way, that's when mistakes are made or accidents happen.
- Be sure you know how to recognise if someone has overdosed and what to do in this situation.
- There are other options to injecting.
- If you have got to the point where you are tired of injecting but not sure what to do to change, please contact us.