What do Heroin Track Marks Look Like?
Heroin is one drug that’s a central part of the nation’s opioid epidemic, and it’s scary, dangerous and all-too-often deadly. Like other opioids, when someone uses heroin, it binds to opioid receptors in the central nervous system.
This triggers a release of dopamine, which is why people feel a euphoric high when they use these drugs. In addition to feeling euphoria or a pleasurable feeling, which lasts only a few minutes in most cases, people then begin to feel very drowsy and may even nod off intermittently.
Heroin is highly addictive because it activates reward pathways in the brain, and people also build a tolerance to the drug very quickly, which means they take larger and larger doses to feel the same effects.
Heroin is derived from morphine and when it’s pure, it’s a white powder, but there are other variations of the drug as well, such as black tar heroin, which looks much like the name describes.
There are also different ways heroin can be used. In the past, it was almost exclusively used intravenously, meaning it’s injected using a needle. In recent decades, it’s become more popular to snort it or smoke it, although ultimately many people who start out using the drug in these ways move on to injecting it.
This brings us to something that’s one of the biggest signs of heroin use, and that’s track marks.
When someone shoots up heroin, it leaves track marks because it’s being injected directly into a vein. In some cases, the veins collapse from overuse, increasing the changes of the needle being injected into a muscle. There is certain paraphernalia associated with this type of heroin use, including hypodermic needles, cotton balls used to strain the liquid before it’s injected, a spoon for liquefying the drug (which comes in powder form), and something that’s used as a tie wrap that goes around the arm, to make the vein more apparent.
As mentioned, intravenous heroin use leads to the most intense high for most users, and the peak effects occur within just a few seconds after administering the drug. However, the high from this type of drug use is also short-lived.
When heroin is administered via a needle, it can cause symptoms in addition to what happens with the drug itself. For example, muscles will weaken and veins may collapse. Intravenous heroin use can also lead to sores, abscesses or holes at the injection sites.
Heroin also often contains additives and toxins, and this can lead to residue in your blood vessels if you inject the drug. In addition to track marks from heroin, this buildup of toxic residue can cause damage to the lungs, brain, kidneys and liver.
When heroin marks are on the arm, they’re frequently found in the opposite arm that someone uses to write with, because it’s easier for the person to inject the drug this way. However, if the user has someone else inject heroin for them, the heroin marks could be on their dominant arm.
Other areas where heroin marks might be found on a user include hands, feet, the groin and legs.
People may choose different places to administer heroin because it allows them to hide the heroin track marks more easily. Also, people may move away from the area where they originally injected heroin and to another area, if the original place becomes too scarred, inflamed or otherwise irritated.
Heroin track marks are the scars that remain long after a someone has shot up heroin or another drug, and they are often the result of chronic drug abuse in the same spot over and over again.
The differences you’ll see in pictures of heroin track marks are because these marks can vary depending on the stage of healing they’re at.
Recent heroin track marks look like fresh lesions, and they’re similar in appearance to a puncture wound. They may also appear as bruises or scabs.
Older heroin track marks may start to show up as discolored, raised scars. Even after someone stops using drugs, the scars of track marks may remain. In some cases, there may also be infections at the site of track marks.
Unfortunately, people also may use their hands to inject drugs, so this can be a place to look for heroin track marks as well. Hands have shallow veins and arteries, which can easily be damaged and scarring is more likely, but there are even more risks with this kind of drug use, which is why heroin track marks on hands can be particularly alarming.
Have more questions about Heroin abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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