Many drugs can be administered by injection directly into the veins to achieve a high. These include heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, to name a few common substances of abuse. Injecting carries serious risks from disease, cardiovascular incidents and collapsed veins. Many people are aware of the potential for spreading HIV/AIDS by using contaminated needles, but some may be less aware of the other risks, especially the risk of vein collapse.
What Are Collapsed Veins?
A collapsed vein is a response to repeated injection that includes irritation of the lining of the vein, swelling and potential blockage due to either inflammation or scar tissue. The vein no longer allows blood flow or circulation once collapsed and cannot be used for further intravenous injection. Any attempt to continue using a collapsed vein in this way can cause blood clots. In some cases, during healing, the walls of the vein may fuse together permanently.
What Causes Collapsed Veins?
Collapsed veins are most often caused by the repetitive use of the same vein for administering intravenous drugs. The repeated insult to the vein cause it to collapse. This can happen more readily when the injecting drug user utilizes the same spot before the vein can heal. Other factors that can contribute to a collapsed vein include using a blunted needle, poor injection technique and administering drugs known to irritate the blood vessel. Heroin and meth are two such drugs that are frequently associated with collapsed veins.
How Are Collapsed Veins Treated?
Prevention is often the simpler choice here, rather than treatment, which isn’t always successful. This includes participation in needle exchange programs and not using the same injection sites as often. Treatment for intravenous drug use is highly advised because of the numerous risks involved, of which collapse of overused veins are merely one example.
In terms of treatment, the first step is to stop attempting to use the damaged vein. After that, vitamin C and rutin can be administered under a doctor’s supervision to treat the inflammation associated with vein collapse. Rutin is a substance derived from many natural sources, including buckwheat and asparagus. According to studies, this combination has been known to yield good results. Severe damage may require blood thinners and surgery to correct. Not all veins that have collapsed can be repaired, however.
What Other Cardiovascular Risks Are Caused by Injecting?
The drugs injected often carry a high risk for cardiac damage, including heart attacks; however, other substances like fillers and adulterants can cause damage as well. These agents can damage the endothelium (lining) of heart valves, increasing the risk of endocarditis – inflammation of the interior layer of the heart. In turn, this can cause the development of a cardiac murmur or heart failure. This is in addition to the cardiac damage and toxicity caused by injecting stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.
Performing intravenous injections without medical training and without the supervision of a physician is always dangerous. This danger is multiplied when the injected substance is a dangerous street drug. The potential for tragic complications, ranging from vein collapse to sudden cardiac arrest, isn’t worth the very short-lived high.
If you or someone you know has collapsed veins or is suffering from other health issues associated with injecting drugs, call our helpline at 800-447-9081 for more information about the condition and treatment options.