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  • Intravenous drug users can experience a wide range of health problems, including vein damage. People who inject drugs partake in high-risk activities that can be life-threatening.

    Those who participate in intravenous drug use have an increased risk of morbidity due to the serious nature of injection drug use, also known as “shooting up.” 

    What Drugs Are Commonly Injected?

    Those who participate in drug abuse may insert needles into their arms. Some of the drugs primarily seen with IV drug users include:

    These are just some of the drugs that are used for injection. However, opiates have a strong prevalence among injection drug users.

    Causes & Effects Of IV Vein Damage

    When a needle is inserted into an injection site on your body repeatedly, or if you’re using an improper injection technique, you can develop:

    • track marks
    • ​skin infections
    • cellulitis
    • blockages
    • vascular scarring
    • bacterial infection
    • ​blood clots

    In order to prevent injecting drugs into the same spot on your body, some have turned to other parts of the body to inject the drugs. For instance, some may choose skin popping. This is when a person injects themselves with drugs in the muscles or soft tissue of the body.

    Blood Clots

    When intravenous drug use occurs, the lining of veins can be damaged, causing blood clots and blockages to form. This is serious and can lead to death. 

    Bacterial Infections

    Blood-borne viruses can cause bacterial infections which enter the body through the broken skin at the injection site. Sharing unclean needles with others can cause you to catch other diseases such as HIV or hepatitis c. 

    Vascular Scarring

    Vascular scarring can lead to infections and venous disease. Abscesses, ulcers, and cysts may develop due to injecting. In addition to these dangers, there are other complications that can be caused by injecting illicit drugs. 

    Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

    There can be other serious complications that injecting drug users should be aware of. Collapsed vein syndrome is a dangerous condition that can lead to thrombosis which causes blockages in your veins.

    Deep Vein Thrombosis DVT description and symptoms

    Once you develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT), arterial bleeding or pulmonary embolism may occur. This requires immediate hospitalization. 

    Those participating in drug abuse may inject themselves in a different part of the body in order to prevent sores. However, this can put you more at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis which usually occurs in the femoral vein located in the groin. 


    One of the long-term health risks of IV drug use includes developing endocarditis, inflammation of the heart’s lining. When this takes place, it can eventually lead to heart failure.

    Addiction Treatment Options

    Both inpatient and outpatient treatment options are available to address drug addiction. Substance use treatment options include mental healthcare, support group meetings, therapy, and other services.

    If you or a loved one would like to learn about our substance abuse treatment programs, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on August 25, 2022
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