Heroin Marks on Arms & Infection
Heroin is a dangerous, addictive and often deadly opioid drug. When people take heroin, it affects their brain and essential functions including respiration.
During the 1970s, the use of heroin was pretty much strictly associated with intravenous drug use, and while that has changed with more people smoking or snorting it, people still tend to most often inject it.
The following provides an overview of heroin, intravenous drug use, and what the term “heroin arm” refers to.
When someone takes heroin, it binds to opioid receptors in their central nervous system, and this triggers a flood of dopamine that’s responsible for the euphoric high and pleasurable feeling people say they have when they first use this drug. In the process, it also activates the brain’s reward pathways, and when this occurs, the user’s brain wants to keep seeking out what gave that pleasurable feeling. Unfortunately, it’s heroin in this case, which is when addiction occurs. People also become tolerant to heroin meaning they need higher doses to have an effect, and if they try to stop using it cold turkey, they go through withdrawal.
Along with a high, heroin use also leads people to feel very drowsy and even nod off, and it has many other adverse side effects like nausea, vomiting, and itchiness. Of course, overdose is possible and happens frequently with heroin use. Signs of a heroin overdose can include unconsciousness, cold, clammy skin, having a bluish tint to the lips and pinpoint pupils.
Heroin arm is a term that refers to what happens when someone injects the drug. Heroin has lost some of its stigma over the years because increasingly pure products have allowed people to take it in other ways aside from injecting it with a needle, but even if someone ultimately starts out snorting or smoking heroin, they tend to move to injecting it, which leads to heroin arm.
The reason for this is because when heroin is injected it works extremely quickly and people often feel the effects within a few seconds. Injecting heroin also leads to a more powerful high.
Unfortunately, there are also additional risks that come with injecting heroin as well, in addition to the risks of the drug itself.
There are so many dangers associated with injecting heroin. First, the risk of overdose is higher, and if someone is using heroin that’s cut with toxins or has other additives they’re unaware of, it can be even more dangerous to put it directly into the bloodstream.
There’s also the risks associated with needle use including the heightened risk of contracting diseases like HIV and hepatitis. Also, when people have heroin marks on the arm, it can mean they’re at a higher risk of complications like inflamed or collapsed veins, skin infections, or other problems.
For example, people can get a bacterial heroin arm infection when they have germs that are on their skin’s surface or are on a needle, and then they push them deep into their skin, and bypass the barrier layer that’s supposed to be provided by the skin. If a bacterial heroin arm infection reaches blood vessels, it can cause very deep infections of the tissues, veins or vascular areas. For people who inject heroin subcutaneously, they’re at risk for getting abscesses and infected blisters.
As was touched on above, a heroin arm infection can also mean someone contracts something like HIV or hepatitis C.
Staph infections are associated with injecting heroin and intravenous drug use, and these infections can start out looking like a pimple or bug bite. They may be swollen, sore and red and staph infections can spread to other areas of the body and require intravenous antibiotics and drainage of the wound area. Abscesses are infections that lead to a mass that’s filled with bacteria, debris, and pus.
Cellulitis is a skin infection that leads to streaking of the skin, swollen lymph nodes, leaking yellow fluid from blisters, and fever. Sometimes cellulitis requires hospitalization.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a flesh-eating disease that occurs when bacteria enters the tissue. Skin starts to feel swollen and hot, and people also often have symptoms like fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Skin can become black as the infection spreads, and it can lead to death if it spreads. Amputation may also be necessary in some cases.
These aren’t even all of the risks associated with heroin arm infections.
Heroin marks on the arm are indicators that someone is repeatedly injecting drugs into their arm, and it’s leading to scars. It’s not the only one, but it is a key sign of drug use in many people.
Have more questions about Heroin abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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