How to Tell if Someone is Shooting Up Drugs

Written by Chloe Nicosia

IV Drug Abuse: How to Tell if Someone is Shooting Up Drugs

Between 2005 and 2009, as many as one in three people who were HIV positive also had an alcohol or drug problem. One of the biggest risk factors for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases spread by sexual contact and the sharing of bodily fluids is through the sharing of contaminated needles in intravenous (IV) drug users. This is just one of the problems that IV drug abusers face when they inject drugs into their bloodstream. In this article, we will explore how to tell if someone is shooting up drugs, and examine all of the dangers that IV drug use causes. 

Are you concerned a loved one might be shooting up? Learn more about the signs here.


Signs of Shooting Up

The following section explores how to tell if someone is shooting up drugs by looking at the physical signs of shooting up. These can range from the damage that using the drug intravenously does as well as the damage and changes that the substance abuse itself causes.

Track Marks

What are track marks? One of the ways on how to tell if someone is shooting up drugs is the “track marks” that are left in the wake of their abuse.

Track marks are the injection points where drugs such as cocaine, heroin, prescription opioids, and meth are injected into the blood stream. Due to the repeated use of an addict, the track marks aren’t given enough time to heal before more is injected, leaving visible marks on the forearms, but many areas can be injected including:

  • Elbow
  • Behind the knees
  • Between the toes
  • Back of the hand
  • On the wrist

Once the damage that the constant injecting does becomes too bad to continue to inject at the same points, the user may inject themselves in the buttocks, thigh, or numerous other regions.

How to tell if someone is shooting up drugs can be seen in the damage that they’ve caused. Track marks may appear to be poorly-healed puncture wounds, scarring, lesions, bruising, dark pigmentation, and may cause their veins to collapse. The user may also make an effort to hide the track marks by wearing long-sleeve clothing even when the weather doesn’t call for it.

Physical Effects of the Drug

It’s not always possible to visibly see the damage caused by IV drug users because they may purposely hide the track marks or inject in non-visible areas. Another of the physical signs of

shooting up is the effects that the drug has on them when they inject it. Injecting drugs causes a near instant effect based on the particular drug, such as a rush of euphoria, energy, and focus that seems to come out of the blue. The following looks at the signs of current use of the commonly abused IV drugs.

  • Heroin and prescription opioids: Drowsiness, constipation, shallow or slowed breathing, nausea, nodding off.
  • Cocaine: Sweating due to an increase in body temperature, increased activity and energy, increased heart rate, and talkativeness.
  • Meth: Dilated pupils, insomnia, rapid eye movement, high blood pressure, increased body temperature, wakefulness, and increased breathing rate.

Other Signs of IV Drug Use

There are more ways on how to tell if someone is shooting up drugs other than the track marks and physical effects of the drug, and they are important to know because track marks can be hidden and they may only use drugs when they aren’t near you. The following are some of the common signs that someone may be shooting up with drugs.

  • Drug paraphernalia – In order to inject a drug, a person needs to have certain drug paraphernalia that is easily recognizable, such as cotton balls, burnt spoons and tin foil, new and used needles, lighters even though they don’t smoke, and plastic packets with drug residue.
  • Deteriorating health – Drug abuse is by no means healthy, and the physical side effects start to become evident at some point. Some of the health problems include abscesses, blood infections, and a host of other health problems.
  • Changes in personality – Drug use causes behavioral changes, which results in a change in the person’s personality. Continued drug use becomes a priority to the user and many other things that were once enjoyed are neglected. Work may also suffer as they lose focus on what’s important and prioritize drug use. They may isolate themselves socially and become aggressive or easily agitated.
  • Withdrawal symptoms – Regular drug use results in dependence. This dependence to the specific drug causes withdrawal symptoms when they haven’t had their fix recently. They then begin to experience classic withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, heavy sweating, irregular heartbeat, and severe cravings among others.
  • Inability to feel pleasure – Since drug abuse causes the reward centers of the brain the function unnaturally, it’s common for people to seemingly lose the ability to take pleasure in things they might have before. This may be coupled with sudden moments of extreme pleasure during their drug use.
  • Financial difficulty – Supporting heavy drug use is costly, and an addict may run into severe financial difficulty as most of their money goes toward buying more drugs. They may not pay their bills on time or have very little food in the house.

Dangers of IV Drug Use

The dangers of IV drug use are an important fact to note as they can causes severe harm over the long term. One of the biggest dangers is the sharing of needles among friends and strangers. It is a major cause of the spreading of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. At the time, the user is not concerned with their health or the consequences that sharing a needle with a stranger; they only seem to care about getting the drug into their system. Such recklessness, which is common in addiction, can have disastrous long-term effects including blood infections and abscesses from “dirty” needles.

Get Help Now

Stopping a drug addiction is vitally important, whether in a loved one or yourself. Thankfully, there are many effective programs that are aimed at helping IV drug users stop their drug abuse and prevent them from returning to substance abuse.

In cases where the addiction is severe, medications can be introduced to help the person maintain their drug abstinence. Such a method works where previous rehab programs have failed, and is especially important for IV drug users.

To get help for a drug abuse problem involving needles, get in touch with Better Addiction Care today. We are able to help you locate the nearest drug rehab center that specializes in treating IV drug abuse. Call us at 1-800-429-7690.