There are many different ways to consume or use drugs. Some drugs can be eaten, smoked, and even snorted, but there is one method of taking drugs which is inherently more dangerous than the other methods. Taking drugs intravenously by injecting the drugs directly into the bloodstream will provide the user with a faster and stronger high. However, this method is particularly dangerous because of the perils of dirty needles. Sometimes, spoons and needles used to inject drugs are used repeatedly by a number of different people. This practice puts intravenous drug users at risk of contracting diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B (HBV), or Hepatitis C (HCV) because those diseases are transmitted through bodily fluids.

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There are many different drugs that can be injected, including heroin and other opiates like morphine. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created this chart to show the new HIV infections in the USA in 2010. For years, multiple organizations have worked to reduce the harm caused by dirty needles by providing drug users with a needle exchange program, which allows them to bring in dirty needles and exchange them for new ones. The centers that do needle exchange also offer information and education on HIV/AIDS and other transmittable diseases. This method has been fairly controversial, with many people believing that this practice condones intravenous drug use and that it sends a mixed message to the community. However, AIDscience.com reports that needle exchange programs are effective at reducing the rates of certain diseases like HIV, HBV, and HCV.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that an annual average of 425,000 people (over 12 years old) used a needle to inject drugs during 2006 to 2008. Out of that population, an estimated 13% reported they knew or suspected someone else had used the needle previously, and about 29% reported cleaning their needle with bleach prior to using it. Only about half of those surveyed (52%) reported purchasing a needle from a pharmacy and 12% obtained the needle through a needle exchange program. From the estimated population of 425,000 intravenous drug users, an average of 241,000 people injected heroin, 166,000 people injected cocaine, 165,000 people injected methamphetamine, and another 95,000 injected other stimulants. The same report illustrated that the danger from infected needles is significant when it found 11.8 % of people surveyed bought their needles on the street and 21.9% obtained their needle from other (most likely illegitimate) sources.

Injecting drugs involves a lot of risk and pitfalls for the users. Not only do drug users need to be concerned about contracting HIV, HBV, or HCV from a dirty needle, but they also need to be concerned about the drug they are taking. Contracting a disease is sadly a major part of the intravenous drug use world. If you or someone you know needs help from IV drug use, please call us today and save a life.