Drug Use

Safer Drug Use

Safer needle use helps protect injection drug users from HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, as well as many other diseases and problems like dirty hits, vein collapse, tetanus, or abscesses.

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 spoon or glass, or in your water will be injected into your veins.
  • 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.
  • Dirty hits can cause abscesses, vein collapse, the bends, embolisms (blockage of the vein), heart and lung infections and/or blood poisoning.

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: 

  • Getting infected.
  • Scarring from always shooting in the same place.
  • Re-using needles - they are no longer sharp.

Track marks and bruising are caused by:

  • Blood leaking out of the vein.
  • Infections.
  • Using blunt or barbed needles (no longer sharp).
  • Always shooting in the same place.

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. If you don't have sterile water, use tap water, but let it run for a minute first. Do not use water that has been sitting around for a while.
  • 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.

Learn more about gay, bi and men who have sex with men (MSM) and drug use.