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Intravenous drug use carries specific risks, like being more likely to contract certain infectious diseases. One of the tell-tale signs of intravenous drug use is track marks. People who use drugs intravenously will often take precautions to try and hide track marks on arms, hands and elsewhere, but they aren’t always able to keep them out of sight.
Using a drug intravenously means injecting a substance into a vein with a syringe. This type of drug use leads to rapid effects. The substance bypasses the first-pass metabolism process that oral drugs would go through. When someone uses drugs orally, they must first be absorbed into the intestines. Then, they’re carried to the liver and processed before they hit the bloodstream. With intravenous injection, drugs bypass the liver and immediately go to the bloodstream and brain. The high can often be felt within a minute of injection.
Intravenous drug use, also known as IV use, isn’t usually the first route of administration. As someone’s dependence on a substance increases, they might want a faster and stronger high, leading to intravenous use. The rapid and intense euphoria tends to dissipate quickly as well. That can make people who inject drugs more prone to binging. Binging behaviors mean taking doses one after another immediately after a high wears off.
Almost all drugs can be injected, including:
Track marks on arms and hands from other drugs are one of the characteristic signs of intravenous drug use. Track marks are linear scars and areas of increased pigmentation. As people continue to inject themselves, scarring makes it difficult to inject in the same place, causing them to inject above the previous location. As this process repeats, linear marks over injection sites develop. The most common place to see needle track marks is on the forearms, where they can be hidden and easily accessed.
The main causes of track marks include:
While they’re most common on the inside part where the upper and lower arm meet, track marks can be found anywhere someone injects drugs. Along with track marks on arms and hands, track marks on legs, ankles, and feet are also common.
The veins in the hands and arms are easy to see and inject into. These veins are often close to the surface, and it’s easy to cover track marks on the arms with long sleeves. Veins in the lower extremities are common sites for injection, especially after the veins in the arm and hands get too damaged or collapse. Leg veins are deeper under the skin, making them harder to access.
Along with scars, track marks can look like multiple linear bruises, scabs or punctures at injection sites. A new puncture wound may appear pink or bright red. The skin might be covered by a scab or newly formed scar tissue for newer sites. Older track marks are light pink or white once they’re healed. The vein itself may also become scarred. When the vein is scarred, it may look darker and very noticeable.
Along with needle track marks, other signs of drug use can include:
Using drugs intravenously introduces new risks and the dangers that come with using the drug itself. Dangers and complications of intravenous drug use include:
Addiction is a disease that can overtake every area of someone’s life, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Treatment programs at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake are evidence-based and personalized to begin the recovery journey in a safe, comfortable environment. Reach out to learn more about our Colorado addiction treatment programs.
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