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Complications of IV Drug Use: Infectious Disease

Aside from the likelihood of overdose and mental health problems, intravenous drug use carries a high risk of infectious disease. The possibility of contracting an infectious disease of intravenous drug use increases dramatically when a person is using non-sterile injection equipment, but can also occur from contamination of the drug itself.

The most common infection from injecting drugs is cellulitis. According to Sepsis Alliance, “Cellulitis is a type of infection that affects the skin and the tissue underneath. Cellulitis causes redness and pain to advance up the affected limb. Most cellulitis among the general population is caused by Group A streptococcal bacteria, however, when people inject IV drugs, they are also at risk of cellulitis from other bacteria and even fungi.” When left untreated, cellulitis can lead to serious health complications.

Abscesses are also a common consequence of injecting drugs. An abscess is a swollen area of body tissue containing an accumulation of pus. According to the Infectious Disease Society of America, “Skin and soft-tissue abscesses are a frequent, morbid, and costly complication of injection drug use. The infections themselves, and the required surgical incision and drainage, damage soft tissue and nerves. Among injection drug users (IDUs), frequent recurrence of abscess compounds the scarring and deformity associated with such infections.” Abscesses must be treated immediately or they can cause serious health complications or death.

In some cases, an IV drug user can develop an infection known as necrotizing fasciitis. Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious bacterial infection that destroys body tissue and can lead to a user losing the infected limb or dying if not treated immediately. According to Volume 33, Issue 1 of Clinical Infectious Diseases, a study of 107 patients, 15% with necrotizing fasciitis did not survive.

Infections among intravenous drug users is a major health concern. According to a 2002 article of Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, “Skin and soft tissue infections are the most common cause for hospital admission of injection drug users. Cutaneous and subcutaneous abscesses are the most frequent type of SSTI and occur most commonly when drug users are no longer able to inject intravenously and resort to injection directly into skin or muscle.” Any infection can lead to sepsis if left untreated. According to the Sepsis Alliance, “Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly) and/or amputations.”

Your life does not have to be one of health risks as a result of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a happy, healthy future. The Resilient House, located on scenic Lake Sherwood in Southern California, offers a comprehensive strategy of treatment that is tailored to each client’s specific needs. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: 833-242-6431