The following strategies are the most common practices that can help reduce harm and risk for skin infection during injection drug use. Harm reduction involves a range of support services and strategies to enhance the knowledge, skills, resources, and supports for individuals, families and communities to be safer and healthier.
FIVE WAYS TO AVOID INFECTION
- Make sure your hands are clean.
- Clean injection site with soap and water or with alcohol wipes before injecting.
- Reduce handling your cotton or other supplies with your bare hands to reduce bacteria.
- Do not use alcohol wipes after shooting up- it prolongs bleeding.
- Do not lick the tip of the needle before shooting- this spreads bacteria.
SAFER SHOOTING TIPS OF HARM REDUCTION
- When you think you’ve found a vein, pull back slightly on the plunger. If blood flows into the rig, you’re ready to go.
- Release tourniquet slowly AFTER you hit a vein, but BEFORE you inject.
- Apply pressure to the injection site for one minute following injection.
- Find a multiple usable veins and ALTERNATE between them with each injection. Good spots will last longer if you don’t shoot in them too much.
FOUR FACTORS THAT WILL SHAPE WHERE YOU STICK A SYRINGE.
1. Where you are getting off: If you are someplace comfortable where you can take your time vs. some place you have to be sneaky and finish
2. What you are using: If you’re on a coke run, you are going to use your hit spots more than if you are getting your dope fix
3. Who you’re using with: Are you getting off by yourself? This means you’re going to hit yourself someplace you can reach. Or, you never hit yourself which means the other person needs to know what they are doing.
4. Frustration: You want to get off, and if you get really frustrated, it can make you impulsive! The truth is sometimes you are gonna be sick, and you want to be well FAST. Take this into consideration when you make your plans!
Harm Reduction Strategy: LEVELS OF RISK during Injection Drug Use
NECK ISHIGH RISK Why? The carotid artery is here. Hit this and you can bleed to death. Total last resort! Only very experienced.
ARMS IS LOWEST RISK, Best choice. Upper arm is better than lower. Why? Its closer to the heart. Taking good care of your arm veins pays off: you won’t have to get off in harder riskier places.
HANDS IS RELATIVE LOW RISK. Lots of rollers here, it can be harder than you think to get a good shot. If you scar or track here, you can hide it. If you blow your veins here, your hands can stay swollen. Use the narrowest needle you can get here. Let your spot heal between injections.
GROIN IS HIGH RISK Why? The femoral vein is big, and fairly easy to find. But its really close to the femoral nerve and artery. Be sure to avoid the artery by checking for a pulse. If you feel it, don’t hit there. Move a short distance toward the inside of your leg to find the vein. You may not see it. Don’t try to hit here unless you really know how to hit “blind”.
LEGS: MEDIUM RISK Why? Circulation problems. The blood in your legs is a long way from your heart. Getting off in your legs veins is more likely than your arms to leave blood clots, which can break off and get lodged in your heart or lungs.
FEET: MEDIUM RISK Why? Veins here take a long time to heal. Circulation is very slow. Its also hard to keep a healing spot clean when you wear shoes and socks.