The Dangerous Risks of Intravenous (IV) Drug Use

What Is IV Drug Use?

young woman in the background - drugs and a syringe on a dirty footlocker in the foreground - iv drug useIntravenous (IV) drug use involves using a syringe and needle to inject a substance directly into the bloodstream. The drug is generally injected into a vein (intravascular). It can also be injected under the skin (subcutaneous), known as skin-popping. Sometimes the substance is intentionally or accidentally injected into a muscle (intramuscular).

Using illicit, addictive drugs intravenously, called shooting-up, produces heightened and rapid effects because the substance goes directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the processes that take place in the intestines and liver. The drug’s rapid entry into the bloodstream allows it to reach the brain very quickly, often within one minute from the time of injection. The intense and rapid euphoria a person feels from using drugs intravenously increases the risk of addiction.

What Drugs Are Used Intravenously?

According to, all drugs except marijuana can be injected. This includes methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs. Drugs that come in tablet form, like prescription medications, can be ground into powder and dissolved. Once liquified, they can be injected intravenously. The most commonly injected drugs are heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription stimulants such as Adzenys or Focalin, and opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Potential Dangers of Intravenous Drug Use

Most people who use drugs intravenously began their drug use using other methods, like ingesting, smoking, sniffing, or snorting. But as their tolerance to the drug increased, they needed more of it to satisfy their cravings. As their dependence on the substance increases and addiction develops, many people look for faster and stronger highs. Some turn to intravenous drug use, often using heroin or cocaine. They want the quick, powerful effects of the drug, despite the serious and potentially fatal dangers of intravenous drug use.

The dangers of intravenous drug use range from injection-related injuries to potentially deadly diseases. The UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior describes several of the health dangers of IV drug use, most of which arise from pathogens in the drugs, poor hygiene, and non-sterile equipment.

  • abscesses and skin infections
  • endocarditis (condition in which heart lining or heart valves become inflamed)
  • HIV/AIDS and hepatitis – from the sharing contaminated needles
  • Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) – this condition is a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection in which gas trapped under the skin causes a popping or cracking sensation and
    destroys tissue

In addition, IV drug use increases the risk of overdose and death. Generally, IV drug users are looking for the rapid, intense effect of the drug and do not accurately gauge the amount of substance they are injecting, which can lead to accidental overdose.

Intravenous drug use can also cause long-term risks, including malnourishment and weight loss, sexual dysfunction, decay of brain matter in areas regulating behavior and decision-making, and increased risk of suicide.

Do You Need Help?

Using intravenous drugs has many dangerous health risks. But the truth is using any substance, regardless of the method of administration, comes with dangerous and potentially deadly health risks. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. Call and speak to a caring professional at English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We will answer your questions and help you begin your journey on the road to recovery.

English Mountain Recovery - Tennessee drug rehab center - alcohol rehab -Are you or someone you love looking for benzodiazepine addiction treatment in TN? To learn more about programs offered at English Mountain Recovery, call and speak with someone today at (877) 615-8569. We are ready to help you or your loved one recover.

About the Author: Terry Hurley

Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.

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