The Long-Term Health Risks of IV Drug Use: Hepatitis, HIV, and Overdose

risks of IV drug use (1)

Written By: Molly Groo

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.

Published on Mar 19, 2020 | Health and Wellness

Facing the Impacts of IV Drug Use

risks of IV drug use (1)

The opiate epidemic in the United States has led to an increase in intravenous (IV) drug use. Many addicts start using pills or illegal drugs by swallowing or snorting them, but progress to injection. Tragically, this can be fatal.

Overdose is just one of the many risks that IV (intraveneous) drug users face.

Effectively preventing and treating addiction means being aware of the grave, unique challenges IV drug users face. Being aware of these risks can help us to move forward into solutions for everyone impacted by addiction.

Increased Overdose Risks

Adverse health risks increase when someone uses drugs intravenously. These risks include overdosing. Generally, this is due to how the body processes substances differently when injected. Injecting a drug causes it to enter the bloodstream and brain instantly. Thus, causing the high or “rush,” because the drug impacts the user immediately. In these cases, overdoses can happen quickly. While snorting or swallowing pills is extremely dangerous and often results in overdose, the risk of overdose increases if the method of use is IV drug use. 

More than Just Overdose: Other Risks of IV Drug Use

Overdose is one of the most well-known risks of injecting drugs. However, someone can overdose on drugs no matter how they use them. Intraveneous use has some impacts that are unique to injection- and often deadly for users. One of the most severe potential consequences IV drug use is contracting infections such as hepatitis C or HIV. Both of these diseases spread through infected blood. Unfortunately, many IV drug users share needles and other paraphernalia.

When someone with HIV or hepatitis C uses a needle and shares it, they can transmit the infection. HIV and hepatitis C are both dangerous, chronic diseases that can be fatal. While there is a treatment for both, there is no cure for HIV. Hepatitis C treatment is expensive and difficult to access. For people in active addiction, getting treatment can be nearly impossible.

But the risks don’t end there. Other dangers of IV drug use include:

  • Skin infections like abscesses from unsanitary injection
  • Tetanus infection
  • Heart infections that can be fatal (like endocarditis)
  • Scarred or collapsed veins
  • Infections like MRSA and sepsis
  • Immune system problems
  • Injury from damaged syringes

Treatment and Recovery

Although intraveneous drug use carries specific risks, all forms of drug use can be hazardous. Snorting or swallowing drugs can cause infections, organ damage, overdoses, and more. Regular or daily drug use can lead to addiction, with all the loss it brings. The truth is that there isn’t a risk-free way to abuse drugs. Treatment for addiction, including any medical impacts of drug use, is the only way to prevent the most severe consequences.

For people suffering from medical issues as a result of IV drug use, treatment should include medical care and monitoring. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we are proud to offer medication management and case management to address all of the impacts addiction has had on our patients. If you are ready to recover, call us today to get started on your journey.

Written By: Molly Groo

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.
Cite This Article
Molly Groo. "The Long-Term Health Risks of IV Drug Use: Hepatitis, HIV, and Overdose." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Mar 19, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/risks-of-iv-drug-use/.

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