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Injection Drug Use

You were seen in the emergency department (ED) for injection drug use, a method for delivering substances into the body that involves a needle injection. We are concerned about your health, as people who use injected drugs are at risk of dependence and overdose, in addition to complications of injecting. For instance, injections can cause deep skin infections, viral infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and allow bacteria to get into the blood and infect the heart, lungs, or spine. Many people want support to stop their drug use, and we want to help in whatever way we can.

Steps to take at home:

  • We strongly recommend that you stop using all drugs except for those that are prescribed by a doctor. This can be difficult, but there are resources below to help you on your journey.
  • If you continue injecting drugs, the following recommendations can decrease your risk of many complications:
    • Always wash the skin at the site of the injection with soap and water, followed by rubbing alcohol swabs, before each and every injection.
    • Always use new clean needles and mixing water with each injection.
    • Never take larger doses than what you are used to.
    • If you inject opioids, please keep a naloxone rescue kit within reach when injecting in case of an accidental overdose.
    • Please follow-up with your primary care doctor within one week to monitor your symptoms and to discuss your drug use.

New clean needles, rubbing alcohol swabs, and sterile mixing water can be obtained through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) or sterile syringe programs (SSPs). The following resources can help you find support services for substance use in your area:

  • North American Syringe Exchange Network: NASEN.org/map or (253) 272-4857
  • National Drug Information Treatment and Referral Hotline: (800) 662-4357
  • Your state’s Department of Health website may also have information about such programs

Please speak to your doctor or come back to the ED for new symptoms, such as fever (100.4°F or higher), chest pain, shortness of breath, painful redness and swelling at the site of an injection, pain over your spine, or any other new concerns. Please review medication inserts for side effects and call the ED if you have any questions about the medications or care you received.

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