Substance Use | Regional HIV/AIDS Connection

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Substance Use

Safer Substance Use

Safer needle use helps reduce the likelihood of acquiring HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.  Safer needle use also helps reduce instances of vein collapse, tetanus, or abscess, among other possible complications.

HIV and Hepatitis C can be transferred through the blood of one person to another by sharing needles, syringes or other drug use equipment.

You can prevent becoming infected with HIV or Hepatitis C by:

  • Using a new, sterile needle every time you inject.
  • Using new equipment every time before each injection such as cookers, filters, ties, acidifiers, swabs, and water.  The risk for HIV infection from sharing other drug use equipment is low but the risk for Hepatitis C is high.
  • Safely getting rid of used needles in a container.

Keeping Yourself Healthy

Every time you inject, any germs on your skin, in your syringe, on your cooker, spoon or glass, or in your water will be injected into your veins andcan cause abscesses, vein collapse, , embolisms (blockage of the vein), heart and lung infections and/or blood poisoning.

Tiny pieces of your filter can also be pulled up into the syringe as you fill it.  If you inject it into your veins the infection is called cotton fever. New sterile filters that are manufactured for the purpose of filtering injection drugs will minimize this risk. Avoid using cotton balls, cotton swabs or cigarette filters.

Taking Care of Your Veins

  • Every time you inject, you put a tiny hole in your vein. It needs time to heal properly before you use it again or it can collapse or cause track marks.
  • All drugs are mixed with something. Pills are mostly made up of chalk with a little bit of the drug mixed in. Coke, heroin and other drugs are mixed with many different chemicals. Every time you inject, you're also injecting these things into your veins. They can also cause infections, vein collapse, track marks and bruising.

Veins collapse from: 

  • Infections
  • Scarring from always  injecting in the same place.
  • Re-using needles - they are no longer sharp.
  • Blood leaking out of the vein.

To prevent infections, vein collapse and other side effects of injecting:

  • Use a new, sterile needle every time you inject.
  • Wash your hands before you handle the equipment.
  • Use a new cooker each time you mix your drugs.
  • Use a new filter each time you inject.
  • Use sterile water.
  • Always clean your skin with alcohol swabs before you inject.
  • Change the place on your body where you inject.

Find out about safe needle disposal.

If you would like more information on safer injection or drug use and HIV/Hepatitis C, contact our Counterpoint Harm Reduction Services team.

The Counterpoint Needle and Syringe Program provides safer injection materials and harm reduction information. Visit our Needle & Syringe Program page to find out more.

To find out more about safe injection, visit our Needle & Syringe FAQ page.