Are They Shooting Up?
When someone you love begins to look and act differently, you may be concerned that they’ve developed a substance use disorder. Sometimes, physical changes and erratic behaviors can indicate a pattern of intravenous drug use. If you’re concerned that your friend or family member has started to abuse heroin, methamphetamine, or other drugs, help is available. Today, we’ll teach you how to tell if someone is shooting up drugs.
IV Drug Use Explained
Intravenous drug use – also known as IV drug use – can be a sign of a severe substance use disorder. If someone is taking drugs intravenously, it means that they are injecting substances directly into their veins with syringes.
Consuming drugs this way is much riskier than other methods of use. Potential complications include increased risk of overdose, serious infections, cardiovascular disease, endocarditis, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C. In addition to these conditions, IV drug users may experience collapsed veins, scarring, abscesses, and other health problems. As their veins collapse, people may switch to intramuscular injections. This tactic carries its own serious long-term risks, including wound botulism, gas gangrene, tetanus, and necrotizing fasciitis.
If IV drug use is so dangerous, why do people do it? Simply put, injecting drugs results in a near-instantaneous, extremely powerful high. While taking drugs orally forces the body to metabolize the drugs in the intestines before they can cross the blood-brain barrier, IV drugs immediately enter the bloodstream. Since effects are felt within a minute of injection, the on-demand nature of shooting up can become addictive.
Most often, intravenous drug use is associated with heroin. However, people inject a variety of different substances. The most common intravenous drugs are:
- Prescription opioids
- Bath salts (synthetic cathinones)
- Prescription stimulants
How to Tell If Someone is Shooting Up Drugs
As we’ve discussed, intravenous drug use is incredibly dangerous. While it results in a faster, stronger high, it also increases the risk of addiction, infection, overdose, and even death. By identifying the signs of IV drug use, you may be able to help someone seek treatment before their situation worsens. People who are shooting up will exhibit both physical and behavioral symptoms of addiction.
Physical Signs of Addiction
- Track marks – Look for scars or sores on your loved one’s body. They will most commonly appear on the arms, but can also be found on the hands, feet, legs, and neck. If your loved one insists on wearing long sleeves and long pants – even when inappropriate for the weather – they may be trying to conceal scars.
- Skin problems – Injecting drugs can easily lead to infection. Look for abscesses, irritation, and redness. You may also see bumps on their skin; such marks are indicative of intramuscular injection.
- Collapsed or scarred veins – If you see bruises under someone’s skin, they may have extensive vein damage as a result of IV drug use.
- Poor hygiene – Individuals who are addicted to drugs let many things fall by the wayside, including their physical appearance. If your loved one seems disheveled, they may have developed a chemical dependence.
- Rapid weight loss – People who are addicted to drugs also tend to ignore their dietary needs. If they do eat, they may seek out sugary or fatty treats without much nutritional value. Malnutrition is a common cause of sudden weight loss for those dealing with a substance use disorder.
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
- Change in personality – If your once-quiet spouse has become outspoken and goofy, you may wonder what’s going on. Substance use lowers one’s inhibitions and can result in uncharacteristic personality traits. Those who are under the influence may become combative, silly, depressed, or anything in between.
- Ignoring commitments – People who are distracted by addiction often struggle to function at work or home. They forget important responsibilities, don’t show up for family events, and may even lose their jobs. It’s also common for people in active addiction to neglect their hobbies and passions in favor of obtaining, using, and recovering from drugs.
- New “friends” – Even as they avoid the people you know, your loved one may begin hanging out with new people you’ve never seen before: fellow drug users.
- Financial troubles – Buying drugs is expensive, and often, it causes people to experience severe financial problems. Your loved one may borrow or steal to keep up their drug use.
Help for IV Drug Use
If you’re concerned about a friend or family member’s drug use, you’ve come to the right place. Lakeside-Milam is the premier addiction treatment center in the Pacific Northwest. Our expert clinicians are standing by to help you to navigate this challenging time. We provide evidence-based care rooted in scientific research and industry best practices. Through a combination of compassionate support and proven programming, we guide people from addiction to a life of recovery.
To learn more about treatment for IV drug use, contact our admissions team.