Working with injectors isn’t just about giving out clean equipment, you should also be aware of some of the more practical issues faced by people on a daily basis. Of course one of the major ones is getting a vein to inject into in the first place.
This is the first in a short series of articles aimed at increasing access to veins.
Of course I’ve covered issues around raising a vein before on this site (see my article on the best way to use a tourniquet) but this time I'm going to talk about one of the easiest things you can do to help a vein stand up and say hello.
Warmth is your friend
Heat will help dilate veins (dilation is where a vein gets bigger). Keeping warm before injecting will make them easier to find. Remember it’s just as important to warm your body as it is the area you’re injecting. Here are some suggestions to help:
- Don’t inject the moment you get home on a cold day, give your body some time to warm up first, this will also mean you’re more relaxed.
- Have a warm bath, it’s a great way to warm up your body quickly. But please have some common sense and GET OUT of the bath before injecting, overdosing is already a risk you don’t want to add 20 gallons of water to the mix.
- Invest in a hot water bottle, and give it a big hug for 10 minutes.
- If you’re homeless get in the warm for a while before you try and inject, good drug projects will be happy to talk to you for awhile. Take advantage of this (and ask them if they’ll let you have a warm drink).
- If you’re out and about on a cold day make sure you wear lots of layers to keep your core body temperature high. If your body is cold it will keep more blood away from your arms/legs to protect your internal organs from the cold.
- If you need to inject when you’re out and about then you might be able to get ‘heat packs’ from local pharmacies, these stay warm for quite a while. You can even get really good ones that can be ‘refreshed’ in boiling water or a microwave.
On that last point; it would be difficult for some homeless injectors to afford heat packs, but given how these can help reduce the amount of vein damage then this is really something we should be considering a standard item in the better NSPs.
Raising a vein: Food and exercise
Raising a vein: Slapping and gravity
Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice.com. He's been working in harm reduction since the 1990's, although he's previously a frontline needle programme worker he now spends most of his time developing online resources for drugs workers and users.