There are multiple ways that people use heroin. It can be smoked and snorted, but many users eventually end up injecting the drug. This creates a more intense high, quicker. It also makes addiction much more likely.
Injecting heroin intravenously is very dangerous. There is a much higher chance of overdose as well as multiple other risks. It isn’t unusual for IV heroin users to share needles with other addicts which puts them at risk of contracting serious infections or viruses.
Risks of Injecting Heroin
There are many risks that are associated with using heroin, even more when the user injects it directly into his or her veins. The following are just a handful of the dangers of shooting heroin.
Overdose and Death
The ultimate risk of IV heroin use is that it can kill users. Deaths from heroin overdoses have steadily increased year after year since 2002. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin-related overdose deaths increased five-fold from 2010 to 2017.
When heroin is injected directly into a vein, there is a higher risk of overdose because the drug directly enters the bloodstream. It’s also dangerous because it can be difficult for users to gauge how much heroin they are actually injecting. This affects the body much faster when injected than it does when it’s smoked or snorted.
Sepsis and Septic Shock
Sepsis isn’t an infection in itself; it is actually a medical complication that occurs due to an untreated infection. Sepsis happens with the body tries to fight the infection by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream that instead cause an inflammatory response. Various types of infections can lead to sepsis – viral, bacterial, and fungal – though bacterial infections are the most common predecessors to the condition.
Septic shock happens when the individual’s condition continues to decline. The person will have all the symptoms of sepsis, as well as low blood pressure that remains low even with attempts to raise it using fluid replacement. Organs may begin shutting down, which may lead to death.
Heroin users who inject the drug have a much higher chance of contracting the HIV virus than non-drug users. Ten percent of HIV diagnoses happen among IV drug users, according to the CDC. Due to the current surges of Americans using heroin, the CDC warns that our current opioid epidemic could lead to an increase in new HIV outbreaks.
While contracting the HIV virus isn’t considered a death sentence as it once was, the treatment can be complicated and have numerous side effects. There is also the chance that treatment just won’t work. When that happens, and it is rare, then the individual will progress to the full-blown AIDS virus.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is contagious and can range in severity from a fairly mild case that lasts a few weeks to a very serious, sometimes life-long, illness that affects the liver. It typically occurs when someone comes into contact with the Hepatitis C virus in the blood of an infected person. The disease can be classified as acute or chronic. An acute case is a short-term condition that happens within about six months of being exposed to the virus. The majority of people who acquire the Hepatitis C virus infection acutely go on to suffer a chronic infection. A chronic case is a long-term ailment that happens when the Hepatitis C virus remains in the body. The infection can last a lifetime and can cause serious liver issues, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The Hepatitis C virus is typically spread when the blood from a person with the virus enters the body of someone who is uninfected. As blood and organs used for transfusions and transplants undergo strenuous screening before being used, these situations are no longer (since 1992) methods of spreading Hepatitis C. The most common way that the disease is spread is through the sharing of needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
Spreading the Hepatitis C virus can occur in the following situations:
- Sharing of needles, syringes, or other paraphernalia when injecting drugs
- Accidental needlesticks in the health care setting
- Being born to a mother who is infected with Hepatitis C
While far less common, the spread of Hepatitis C can also occur by:
- Sharing items that may have come into contact with someone else’s blood, for example a toothbrush or razor
- Engaging in sexual contact with a person who has the Hepatitis C virus
Other Health Risks Associated with IV Heroin Use
The above are the most serious risks that IV heroin users face, but there are many others that can be nearly as severe. This includes damage to blood vessels and veins, blood clots, skin infections (bacterial and fungal), respiratory problems, and others.
If you or your loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, the time to get help is now. At My Time Recovery, we can help you break the cycle of addiction and get started on the road to recovery.