10 Ways to Tell if Someone is Shooting Up

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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Shooting up drugs can be very dangerous, especially if you don’t know how to spot the signs of intravenous drug use.

Although not all drug use is obvious, spotting the telltale signs that someone is using heroin, meth, or other drugs intravenously can help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe from abuse, addiction, and overdose.

Here are some things to look out for if you suspect someone you care about may be shooting up drugs, including when and where to go for help.

What Does ‘Shooting up Drugs’ Mean? 

To understand how someone could be shooting up, it’s important to know what ‘shooting up drugs’ actually means. Shooting up refers to injecting a substance, often drugs such as meth or heroin, with a hypodermic needle.

As opposed to snorting or ingesting these substances, shooting up provides an immediate and strong sensation thanks to the fast-acting speed and quantity absorbed into the bloodstream when administered via injection rather than oral.

This more invasive technique exposes users to greater risks: one study found that 42% percent of shooting-up participants reported an instance in which they needed medical attention after completing their habit. In contrast, only 12% of snorters required assistance.

Shooting up also increases the risk of overdosing on certain substances – because shooting versus ingesting substances via ingestion subjects them less often to filtration processes within various parts of your body, including those done by our kidneys and livers – increasing chances for riskier behaviors related to drug addiction.

Signs to Look for When Someone is Shooting Up

Finding Puncture Marks

Puncture marks are the most obvious sign of someone shooting up. These can be on their hands, arms, feet, or any other part of their body where there might be a vein.

The skin will likely be scarred and bruised from repeated use. If you suspect that your loved one is shooting up, but you’re not sure what it looks like, these are the most common locations for puncture marks.

Finding Blood on Their Arms or Clothes

One of the easiest ways to tell someone may be shooting up is by looking for blood on their arms or clothes. If you notice a stain of dried blood on someone’s shirt, it’s likely that they’ve recently been punctured with a needle and have been taking drugs intravenously. You might also see fresh blood stains on their arms, which could indicate recent drug use.

Finding Drug Paraphernalia in Their Room

If you find drug paraphernalia in their room, this could be a sign that they are shooting up. Don’t go poking around in there! You may also find needles and syringes, spoons, cotton swabs, and small glass or plastic vials filled with a white or clear liquid. These are all indications of someone who shoots up.

Seeing Needle Marks on Their Arms

While some people may be lucky enough to never see a needle in their life, it’s a very real part of their day-to-day life for others. If you want to know whether or not someone you love is shooting up, there are some telltale signs you can look for. While many of these are relatively obvious, sometimes we need the help of an outsider’s perspective.

They Start Withdrawing From Family and Friends

If you notice your loved one withdrawing from you, it might be because they are using drugs and alcohol. We know that addiction can make people lie, steal and be deceptive. But this behavior can also happen when they start using drugs or drinking again after sobriety.

When someone’s behavior changes dramatically, it’s essential to ask the person what’s happening with them. You might not like the answer, but at least then you’ll know.

Many users will withdraw from friends and family members, so they are less likely to get caught in their lies or have an intervention performed on them by their loved ones.

They Become Withdrawn, Anxious, Depressed, or Paranoid

There are many signs that someone is shooting up, and it’s important for loved ones to be able to spot these signs. Someone who shoots up may become withdrawn, anxious, depressed, or paranoid. They may also have frequent nosebleeds and bad breath.

There could be needle marks on their arms from being used as a vessel for the drug injection. Their skin could have a yellowish tint due to dehydration from not drinking enough water while using the drug.

The person may show slurred speech or impaired motor skills. If they shoot up before work, they might come in late or seem disoriented with their work duties.

They Have Unexplained Injuries

When someone has an injury, such as a bruise, signs usually point toward how it happened. For example, a bruise on the forehead could be caused by something falling on them or bumping into something.

Bruises on the arm can occur when they fall over and hit their arm on something hard like the floor. There may also be traces of substances under their fingernails which would indicate they have been using drugs intravenously.

Their Behaviors Change Dramatically

Sometimes people who use drugs will change the way they act dramatically. This can be a sign that they are using drugs. It’s not always easy to tell what type of drug someone is using, but some common signs could indicate someone is shooting up. They might:

  • Appear sleepy or tired all the time
  • Act nervous or anxious
  • Have trouble sitting still or being in one place
  • Lose interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Have an obsession with sex or pornography
  • Have physical problems like abscesses, sores, and skin infections
  • Be neglectful of their hygiene
  • Be more irritable than usual

Changes in Weight Patterns

The signs that someone has been shooting up are not always easy to spot, but there are some telltale signs. If your loved one has lost a lot of weight, they may be using drugs. Often, people who use drugs will also have erratic sleep patterns and an irregular eating schedule. They may also be experiencing mood swings or changes in their personality.

What to Do if Someone is Shooting Up

To help a loved one overcome this addiction issue, staging an intervention is necessary with other family members and friends involved, where people can openly discuss what happens when somebody develops IV drug addiction and how it affects both your life and theirs. Treatment centers offer various options for overcoming addiction that come in both inpatient and outpatient formats- which includes helping cleanse themselves through detoxification and then take off running towards sobriety.

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