Oak Forest Recovery - Intravenous (IV) Drug Use Resources

Statistics About Intravenous (IV) Drug Use

Globally, around 13 million people inject drugs and 1.7 million of them are living with HIV.

Injecting drug use accounts for approximately 10% of HIV infections globally.

Globally, an estimated 67% of people who inject drugs have hepatitis C.

5 Fast Facts about IV Drug Use

IV drug users face significantly increased risk for infectious diseases such as HIV.

Skin infections are very common in IV drug users.

Repeated intravenous drug use can cause endocarditis, or inflammation of the interior lining of the heart.

Injecting drugs greatly increases the risk of overdose.

IV drug use can cause permanent scars.

About IV Drug Use and Addiction

Drug use usually begins with less invasive methods of consumption, such as smoking or ingesting. As drug users build tolerance, they may use intravenous injection as a way to get a stronger result from the drug. Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription stimulants, and prescription opioids can be injected into the bloodstream through a vein.

People who use drugs intravenously put themselves at an increased risk for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. There are two main ways that IV drug users contract these types of infections: by sharing needles or drug equipment, and by having unprotected sex with an infected person.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, drug use can worsen the progression and symptoms of HIV. Drugs can make it easier for HIV to enter the brain and cause nerve cell injury, as well as problems with thinking, learning, and memory. It can be uncomfortable to go to an AA meeting for the first time, but remember, everyone at AA knows what you’re going through.

At your first AA meeting, you will be welcomed into the group. You’ll be encouraged, but not required to participate in the discussion. Attendees may share stories and include commentary about their journey of sobriety.

Signs of IV Drug Use

Behavioral Signs of IV Drug Use

  • Becoming upset when asked about drug use
  • Wearing long sleeves to cover up track marks
  • Pushing people away
  • Losing interest in favorite things
  • Being unable to stop drug use
  • Intense urges and cravings to use the drug
  • Ignoring important responsibilities

Physical Signs of IV Drug Use

  • Needle marks, scabs, and bruising
  • Scarred, inflamed or infected skin and veins
  • Abscesses or ulcers
  • Dark, sooty residue at injection site from used heated needles

IV Drug Use and Overdose

Injecting drugs increases the risk of overdose compared to other methods of consumption. 

Signs of overdose from IV drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine include:

  • Shallow breaths
  • Gasping for air
  • Very pale skin
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Spasms or seizures
  • Low blood pressure

If you think someone is overdosing on drugs, call 911. Certain overdoses, such as those caused by opioids, can be reversed by a medication called naloxone. Given in time, naloxone can save someone’s life from an overdose.

IV Drug Use Treatment

The World Health Organization recommends the following health services for IV drug use.

  • Needle/syringe programs
  • Opioid substitution therapy
  • HIV testing and counselling
  • HIV treatment and care
  • Condom programming
  • Behavioral interventions
  • Prevention and management of viral hepatitis, TB and mental health conditions
  • Sexual and reproductive health interventions
  • Provision of naloxone and training on overdose prevention for PWID community


The first step of drug addiction treatment is detoxification, or ridding the body of the drug. This is a process that needs to be done gradually, with the help of a medical professional – rather than quitting cold turkey. Gradually weaning off the drug will ease your withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification is also never to be used as a complete treatment remedy – it should be the first step of a long-term treatment plan for recovery. Detox should be followed by either inpatient or outpatient treatment, consisting of behavioral therapy and/or medication.

Behavioral Therapies for Addiction Treatment

Behavioral therapy is an important part of addiction recovery. Behavioral therapy can be used in an inpatient or outpatient setting depending on the individual’s needs.


Some commonly used behavioral therapies for addiction treatment include:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy – designed to help modify the patient’s expectations and behaviors related to drug use and to increase skills in coping with various life stressors.
    • Dialectical behavioral therapy – helps recovering addicts learn several skills such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation, that help people stop using drugs.
  • Motivational interviewing – a therapeutic technique used to strengthen one’s motivation and commitment to a particular goal, such as sobriety.
  • Contingency managementuses a voucher-based system in which patients earn “points” based on negative drug tests.

Medicinal Treatments for Drug Addiction

Medication can be helpful in addiction treatment when used alongside behavioral therapy. 

Many of the drugs people use intravenously are opioids, such as heroin. Opioid addiction can be treated with certain medications, such as:

  • Methadone – a slow acting opioid agonist that prevents withdrawal symptoms, and is dispensed to patients on a daily basis through outpatient programs.
  • Buprenorphine – a partial opioid agonist, relieves drug cravings without producing a high.
  • Naltrexone – an opioid antagonist that blocks the action of opioids and is not addictive.