So, I recently did something really stupid while trying to get that precious shot of junk into my body. My veins were shot from overuse and I was having problems trying to find a vein to register for days. I’m sure this is a nightmare that plagues many IV drug users. I’ve literally spent hours at a time trying to find a vein, blood everywhere, arms and feet swollen and aching, perhaps even bruising on your neck. This time was just like that. Until I found a pulsing vein in my left pointer finger. I wish I could say this was the first time that I had attempted to go there, but it wasn’t. So I knew the risk ahead of time. I had made it there before, but the percentage of success has been low, so I knew the risks. But I was desperate to make the shot and, at this point, would try anything. So I made the plunge and stuck the needle in a tiny, tiny little vein. The vein itself was probably smaller than the 29 gauge needle I was using. But finally… I registered blood. But as soon as I gently pushed down on the plunger the whole area swelled up. I tried to register again, and nothing. With an exasperated sigh I pulled out and kept digging to get the remainder of the junk anywhere I could find, after having wasted the portion I inserted into my delicate finger. I know how stupid this all sounds, how pathetic and desperate. At the time I felt pathetic and desperate, especially since this struggle with my veins had been going on for days. I eventually found a working vein and was able to use it for a couple of days (another unsafe practice) but my body was able to heal where I had been relentless poking and prodding at it. When the swelling in my hand went down, I was able to see an abscess on my finger. UGH. And abscess on my finger?? That fucking sucks.
Since I’m a black tar heroin user, and an ex meth shooter, abscess are nothing new to me, and we take care of them ourselves at home, only going to the doctor when we don’t have antibiotics left. But still, any type of infection or injury shouldn’t be taken lightly when it comes to self-administered IV injections.
The lack of usable veins is nothing new to any experienced IV drug user. IMing is a good way too inject your drug without the hassle of having to find a vein. But of course this comes with risks too. Dirty needles pushed into your muscles can lead to extremely deep abscesses. And of course, for anyone who is used to the immediate rush of your drug of choice hitting your brain almost instantaneously with 100% bioavailability, it’s hard to give up. But when I have completely exhausted my veins, I try to take a break and settle for IMing for a few days to give my veins some time to heal. It’s easier said than done since the desire for that instant shot to your brain is so overpowering. But if you do have the willpower to go 4 or 5 days settling for 85% bioavailability, it’s amazing how fast your body can heal itself. Suddenly, you have veins again! It’s especially useful after shooting coke, when you are doing a shot every 15-20 minutes! But even with heroin, think of all the injections you are doing in a 5 day period, if you have any type of sizable daily habit. On an average day I do about 2 shots in the morning, at least 1 mid-day shot, and at least 2 in the evening. About 5 shots a day – minimum. Even when I have lighter days, I try to keep the same amount of shots, but use a smaller dose. On heavy days, it can be considerable more. But on a low-average that’s 25 shots in a 5 day period. Think of all the havoc that can wreak if you are using the same veins over and over again. When meth was in the picture the daily number was considerably higher, with the added danger of meth itself. It literally eats away at your veins and skin.
Since no IV drug user, myself included, wants to resort to IM shots, even for short periods of time, it’s best to proactively keep your veins healthy and fresh. There are a number of precautions you can take to keep your veins in top shooting shape. So I’ve put together some tips and tricks to help your veins “pop” as easily as possible. There is tons to write about safe shooting, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick with how to easily access a vein and maintain vein health.
Preparing the Vein –
You want to make sure he vein is accessible and easy to shoot in, ie. there is a large amount of blood pumping through it, making it easy to hit. This helps keep injections to a minimum, you only have to puncture the skin once, avoiding all those repetitive attempts, which aren’t only dangerous but EXTREMELY frustrating. I used to do a generic fist pump, which works okay, and I still do when I’m in a confined space like a car. But for people with more weathered veins, it doesn’t always do the trick. Pushup are another commonly known trick, and it works okay. But I don’t always find it the most effective. My SO taught me to swing my arm like a propeller. While this might look a little silly if you are fixing in the presence of company, it does get the blood pumping. I’ve seen this written about on multiple other safe shooting websites as well. One in particular, targeting meth IV users, says to swing your arm like a “propeller”. It has a cartoon that lists various other tricks and tips that are useful.
So here is my list. Hopefully you will find some of these tricks helpful!
* Avoid cigarettes, as they tend to constrict your veins
* Stay warm – fix after a hot shower if necessary. If you are cold your veins will go in hiding. If you aren’t about to take a shower before you get your heroin in your, you can use a hot water pack and rest it on the desired area. Or simply run hot water on your body from the sink.
* Pump blood to the vein, be it fist pumping, propeller arms, pushups, anything to get blood moving to that area. I hop and skip when shooting in my feet/legs.
* Drinking coffee can help. Stimulants will get the heart pumping and widen the blood vessels, helping your veins pop out. (When I was experiencing vein difficulty, I used to shoot meth first, although that’s not recommend, lol). Coke, however, has he opposite effect since it is a vascular constrictor.
* Stay hydrated. Drinking water can actually help veins keep pumping.
* Slapping the vein. There is controversy over this technique. I’ve read online that it is a myth and doesn’t work. But I typically believe what I see, and countless times I have slapped the desired vein to help it pop out more, and low and behold, it works for me.
* Use a new needle. Yes, this is an obvious safe shooting practice in terms of hygiene. But I’m including it for vein health as well. A used needle will rip apart your veins, damaging them and making them inaccessible. I’ve included a picture of a needle before the first use, then after many uses. Just imagine that thing trying to pierce your veins. Using a fresh syringe will definitely help your veins say healthy and usable longer!
* Use a tourniquet. But beware that improper use can be extremely dangerous. You must be careful not to wrap it to tight or leave it on too long. You run the risk of blowing a vein. Proper use dictates that the tourniquet must be removed after you register and before you push the plunger down to prevent blowing a vein. However in full disclosure, this is something that I tend to overlook. But I have suffered consequences, damaging a vein in my ankle due to improper tourniquet use.
All the things we just covered are basic, everyday things you can do at home for free. But if you are down and able to spend some cash, there are other things you can do. Substituting your tourniquet for a blood pressure cuff can work better than a tourniquet. It covers a larger portion of your arm and you can make it tighter without causing as much damage. You can buy one at any pharmacy for between $20 and $200. Another is the use of a vasodilator supplement. As the name suggests, these supplements open up or dilate your veins, causing blood to flow more freely through them. As supplements, they are typically used by body builders. But you can also get prescription vasodilators, normally used by people with hypertension or coronary artery disease. Xanthoparmelia Scabrosa is a herbal vasodilator that also is marketed as an natural Viagra, so that could be a nice bonus side effect. CTD Labs Noxivol Powder is another that is aimed towards body builders. You can pick some up at a good nutrition store for about $35. There are also topical ointments that are used as vasodilators, like PERFORMANCE BRANDS Hot Stuff, which affects the micro-circulation at the layers directly under your skin. The one I mentioned goes for $8.00 online, plus shipping. These types of products can come with some unwanted side effects, so do your research thoroughly before investing your money and regret taking them. Nitroglycerin applied to the skin can also help dilate your veins. EMTs carry it in small tubes. I happened to live with an EMT for a while and he would give me boatloads of these things. That was the only cool part of living with that guys, lol. So if you can get your hand some of those, they definitely work. You can also buy tubes of Nitroglycerin ointment, normally sold to prevent chest pain in people with heart conditions. A tube costs around $40 online. I would suspect it would have the same result as the little ones the EMTs use. One of the comments that came in suggested the use of a veinlite EMS. That’s a fantastic idea too! I’d love to get one of these, sadly they come with a $200-$400 dollar price tag. But if you can afford it, I bet it’s definitely worth the money!
Using these tips, along with hygienic, clean, safe shooting practice will make the whole experience way more enjoyable. The other thing to keep in mind when picking a vein to shoot in is the location on the body. There is a hierarchy of safe shooting spots. I won’t go into details, but the order goes as follows:
9. Femoral Vein
Anything from #4 (Legs) down should be avoided. The legs are controversial, they aren’t really dangerous, unless you shoot into the wrong type of vein, and it isn’t always easy to decipher. So to error on the side of caution, I generally avoid my legs, until I’m desperate.
The last thing I’m going to touch on is damage due to repetitive use. Common sense should have told me not to shoot in my finger, and the same is true with overuse. Each time the needle penetrates the skin, and then the vein, you are doing damage. It might be imperceptible at first, but time after time it adds up. It’s something I struggle with every time I strap on a tourniquet. When you’ve killed all of your veins, and pickings are slim, it’s natural to hit one vein over and over again if you can actually register. But it can cause long term or permanent damage. Easier said than done, I know. But it is a good rule of thumb.
All I’ve covered here are tips for accessing and maintaining healthy veins. There is tons of more info out there on safe shooting tips. Here is a good resource to start with if you are interested in reading more about IV drug administration. http://wiki.bluelight.ru/index.php/Drug_Injection. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Bluelight is filled with good information and resources about all sorts of drug related issues. I frequent it regularly, and the people there are generally open minded. You can get answers to questions the rest of the Internet would just blast you for. Of course it still is the Internet, so don’t expect it to be completely slander free! Safe shooting everyone!!
Peace, Love and Rock ‘n Roll!