Heroin addiction is a global problem. According to the World Health Organization, 58 million people around the world used opioids in 2018. In the same year, 46,802 opioid-involved overdose deaths occurred in the US. This was followed by a significant rise in 2019 to 49,860 overdose deaths.
The problem with the opioid drug is that it is highly addictive. Even those who take prescription opioids have an increased risk of developing an addiction. And when they develop an addiction, a good number of them turn to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to access. Heroin is typically sold as a white or brown powder that’s cut with starch sugars, synthetic opioids, or even powdered milk.
Pure heroin is a white powder. People who use pure heroin often sniff or smoke it. Any dark powder or black powder may indicate impurities. The same applies to heroin that’s hard as coal or sticky as tar. The dark color in black tar heroin results from crude process methods that don’t eliminate impurities. Those who use impure heroin dilute and inject it into the muscle, veins, or under the skin with an intravenous needle. This leaves behind track marks that can visually give away their drug use problem.
These are physical scarring that happen when one injects drugs repetitively. It’s common to spot profound track marks on people who are struggling with addiction because they are often injecting drugs, leading to scarring. Injecting the same place repeatedly disrupts the skin’s natural barriers and mutilates and bruises the veins in that area. So many drug users shift to other places like the ventrogluteal muscle to try to prevent or hide scarring. This makes it hard to discover their using habits.
Many people who abuse heroin inject through the arms. In fact, it is the most common site of injection. That’s because the veins are visible, accessible, and easy to inject into. Unskilled or frequent injections in the arms leave track marks and may also cause infections. Heroin users will frequently switch injection sites to keep track marks and complications to a minimum. When they do, the legs and feet are often the next stop. Intramuscular injection is a bit challenging for many. So some users skip the leg and go for the feet because the veins are somewhat easy to inject into.
When someone keeps injecting drugs, they will develop scars, sores, or track marks that are easy to spot. That’s why many injecting drug users become adept at concealing these marks. They will wear large clothes, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and things that cover the marks. But since hiding track marks in the arm isn’t always practical, many people will shift to hidden body parts that are harder to be seen.
People who inject drugs are usually only concerned about getting the drugs into their system. As long as they can see a vein, they are good to go. Like arms and hands, the neck has veins and arteries that are close to the surface, making it an appealing option. But according to experts at the department of health, injecting in the neck is one of the riskiest drug-injecting behaviors. It increases the risk of damaging an artery or vein not directly visible at the injecting site. But since the neck is usually visible, most drug users will wear pull-necks, hoodies, or use shawls and scarves to cover up the track marks.
People struggling with heroin addiction may inject the drug along their hairline to conceal their using behavior. The hair does a great job covering the track marks and makes it hard for anyone to notice. Besides, it’s not easy for anyone to check the hairline in case they suspect use. Most people only check the arms. Injecting drugs along the hairline is a dangerous undertaking with potentially life-threatening side effects. In addition to track marks, subcutaneous injections carry the risk of infections. One may also suffer from issues like receding hairline or hair loss.
The wrist is closest to the arm, making it an obvious site for many people who use drugs. Track marks on the wrist are easier to hide. Besides wearing long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, one could cover the marks with a big bangle, watch, band, or cloth. And since these are everyday accessories, it can be hard for people to suspect drug use.
Armpits are naturally hidden, which makes them a great spot for hiding track marks. People who inject in armpits will almost always wear t-shirts or clothes that conceal track marks, even when they stretch. Unless there’s paraphernalia or other signs that give them away, they might go on using for a long time, completely undetected by their friends and family.
Veins in the legs and feet are common injection sites, especially when those in the arms and hand collapse or get damaged. Those who want to hide their track marks will avoid the legs and feet. Instead, they will inject theirtoes. This way, no one would notice even when they don’t have pants or socks on. Track marks between the toes are hard to spot, thanks to the location of the toes. But they are even harder to notice because those who inject their toes are determined to hide them. They will wear socks, shoes, or even wrap the toes with a Band-Aid. They may also cover their legs with a blanket or throw whenever they’re relaxing at home.
Heroin is not only highly addictive but also potentially life-threatening. With the rising cases of heroin overdose deaths, it’s always best to help your loved one get timely help. Remember, drug use is not a sign of weak morals. Many people who abuse drugs have underlying problems. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, substance abuse and mental health issues often co-occur. Addiction treatment can help address the underlying problems so that your loved one can go back to leading a healthy life.