Effects & Dangers Of Injecting Opioids

Opioid injection is a dangerous way to abuse heroin or prescription opioids. Injecting opioids raises the risk of drug overdose, health problems, and substance use disorder.

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Opioids are prescription drugs used to treat moderate to severe pain. Heroin is also an opioid, though it has no approved medical use. Opioid drugs are widely abused and very addictive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid-involved overdose deaths have continued to rise over the last two decades of the opioid epidemic.

Injecting opioids is one of the most dangerous ways you can take them. If you inject into a vein, the whole dose enters your bloodstream rapidly. Overdose, damaged veins, and addiction are some of the risks of opioid injection.

Opioids That You Can Inject

Any opioid can be injected if you dissolve it into a liquid solution. You can crush prescription opioid pills and mix them with water, heating them in a cooker to dissolve them completely.

Popular opioids for injection are:

  • heroin
  • fentanyl
  • oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco)
  • oxymorphone (Opana)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid)

Effects Of Opioid Injection

As central nervous system depressants, opioids slow down your breathing, brain activity, and heart rate. When you inject opioids, you get an immediate and intense effect because the drugs don’t have to go through your digestive system first.

The effects of opioid injection include:

  • euphoria
  • relaxation
  • sedation
  • a sense of calm
  • pain relief

Because opioids go right to your bloodstream when you inject them, you may have more intense side effects.

Side effects of opioid use may be:

  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • confusion

Dangers Of Injecting Opioids

Injecting opioids can cause health problems, spread blood-borne viruses, raise the risk of overdose, lead to skin damage, and increase the chance of addiction.

Health Problems

When you inject drugs into your veins, you don’t just get heroin or oxycodone or fentanyl. There are cutting agents and fillers that can irritate your body as well. If you reuse needles, bacteria can grow on them, even if you don’t share them with anyone.

Injection drug use damages blood vessels and can cause blood clots, especially if you inject in the groin. Some people choose this area because it’s more discreet than the arm. Deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot deep in the leg, is common among people who inject drugs (PWID).

Endocarditis is also common. This condition results from an infection that makes its way to the heart. It’s a life-threatening inflammation of the heart lining and valves.

A Weakened Immune System

Heroin use or misusing prescription opioids can weaken your immune system. As your body begins to depend on drugs to function, it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do without drugs. It also works overtime to process an excess of opioids if you’re abusing them.

Many people who inject opioids are addicted to the point of disregarding basic hygiene and nutrition. These things can also weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Blood-Borne Viruses

Sharing paraphernalia for drug injection can spread blood-borne viruses like hepatitis C and HIV infection. Needles, cookers, tourniquets, and any other injection equipment should be clean, sterile, and kept to yourself.

The spread of infectious diseases is a public health issue. Harm reduction strategies—such as syringe exchange programs—help high-risk individuals have safer injection practices. They provide clean needles, a sterile environment, and support in case of overdose.

Opioid Overdose

Because injecting an opioid allows the whole dose into your blood, you can easily overdose. An amount that was safe to take orally will not have the same effect when you inject it.

An increasing amount of drug dealers lace their heroin supply with fentanyl or make fake oxycodone pills that contain fentanyl instead. They don’t always tell buyers what they’re getting. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and it’s easy to overdose.

If you inject fentanyl thinking you’re injecting heroin, it could kill you.

Naloxone (Narcan) is an opioid overdose reversal agent that’s available at most major pharmacies in the US. It temporarily slows or stops opioid overdose symptoms so you have time to call for medical assistance.

Skin & Vein Damage

Injecting opioids can destroy your skin and veins. If you repeatedly stick a needle in the same spot you’ll get scarring (track marks) and your veins will eventually collapse. You may also develop abscesses (pus-filled tissue) at the injection site.

Unclean needles can carry bacteria that cause infection. A rare infection linked with injection drug abuse is necrotizing fasciitis, which causes your tissue to die. It’s also called the flesh-eating disease.

Opioid Addiction

Because of the intense effect you get from an opioid injection, this method of use has a profound effect on your brain. It feeds dopamine receptors that reward drug-taking and make you crave more.

The effects of opioid injection may not last as long as taking pills orally. If the drugs wear off quickly, you may take more sooner, which leads to addiction faster.

Treatment For Opioid Injection

Illicit drug use, such as injecting opioids, can have devastating effects on your physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. If you or a loved one are struggling with opioid injection, reach out to us today.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we provide comprehensive inpatient rehab programs for people with opioid use disorders. Through a combination of evidence-based and experiential therapies, we guide you from addiction to a new life in recovery.

Substance abuse treatment for opioid injection often begins with medical detox, an inpatient program that ensures your safety through the withdrawal process.

After detox, opioid addiction treatment may include:

Some drug treatment providers, including Bedrock Recovery Center, offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction.

If you’re injecting opioids, you may have intense cravings if you completely detox before treatment. MAT combines medication and therapy to help reduce cravings so you can focus on recovery.

Connect with us today to learn more about opioid treatment at Bedrock Recovery Center.

  1. British Journal of General Practice — The physical health of people who inject drugs: complexities, challenges, and continuity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4871283/
  2. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry — Epidemiology of Injection Drug Use https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4813418/
  3. Mayo Clinic — Endocarditis https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endocarditis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352576
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse — Prescription Opioids DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: August 24, 2023

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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