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Collapsed Veins Due to IV Drug Use

Collapsed veins are a common problem among intravenous drug users. Nearly every habitual IV drug user develops one or more collapsed veins during the time that they use. Though there are a few treatments for collapsed veins, they cannot heal once they’ve been permanently damaged.

What Causes a Collapsed Vein?

A collapsed vein occurs on account of repeated trauma at the injection site. There are many reasons an intravenous drug user might be susceptible to a collapsed vein. These reasons include:

  • Repeated use of the same vein for injection
  • Use of a blunt needle
  • Removal of the needle too quickly after injection
  • Improper injection technique
  • Drugs that irritate and inflame the veins

After injecting into the same vein for weeks or months, the inside lining of the vein becomes damaged and blood clots develop. If injection continues at the same site, the clots block the vein completely. The sides of the veins heal together and the vein collapses, never to be used again.

*Symptoms of Collapsed Veins

The most common symptoms of collapsed veins are cold hands and feet due to circulation loss, sharp pain at injection site, and blue or black discoloration. You may also experience itching at the injection site as the vein starts to heal.


If damage is not permanent, there are a couple of ways you can treat a collapsed vein. The first and foremost treatment for collapsed veins due to IV drug use is to stop injecting into that vein. The vein must be allowed to heal or it will close up and collapse for good.

There are also certain vitamins and supplements that can help treat inflamed veins. According to an article published in the American Journal of Surgery, vitamin C combined with the natural substance rutin have been scientifically proven to treat the inflammation associated with collapsed and damaged veins.

In severe cases, medical intervention might be necessary. Your doctor may prescribe strong anticoagulants (blood thinners) or suggest surgery to repair damaged veins.

Health Problems Associated With Collapsed Veins

When veins collapse, your body compensates for this by growing smaller, curling veins near the ones that have been damaged. These veins will not work for injection but will continue to pump necessary blood throughout your body.

Since these veins are much smaller, they can create a chronic problem with poor circulation. Poor circulation can lead to brain problems, heart problems, stroke, kidney disease, and cyanosis of the limbs due to lack of adequate oxygen supply. With cyanosis, limbs may feel numb and tingly and turn blue or black due to lack of circulation.

Avoiding Collapsed Veins

Since there is very little you can do to treat a collapsed vein once the damage has been done, it’s important that you know how to avoid them. The ultimate way to avoid collapsed veins is to simply stop using IV drugs – this is the best step for your overall health and wellness. Get the help you need today – call us for more information.

If you aren’t ready to take that step toward sobriety and recovery, take every precaution possible to reduce some of the harm of using IV drugs. Here are a few tips and techniques to follow to avoid collapsing your veins:

  • Make use of needle exchange programs. Used, blunt needles are a common cause of collapsed veins.
  • Take care not to hit an artery. Arteries and veins sit very close together so it can be easy to make a mistake. If you hit an artery, blood will spurt and may be frothy. Take the needle out immediately and apply firm pressure at the injection site.
  • Do not inject into the veins in your hands, as they are too small and collapse easily. Also, avoid injecting into your groin area as this can cause serious circulation problems.
  • Do not inject into swollen or bruised sites.
  • Always swab the area before injection to avoid dirt and debris entering into the vein and causing irritation.
  • When using a tourniquet, never tie it too tight.

Getting the Help You Need

When you’ve been using intravenous drugs for a while, it can be hard to even think about quitting. The hold is so strong, the high so intoxicating, and the crash so terrible. No matter what drew you to use IV drugs in the first place, there is always a way out. Help is out there. All you have to do it take the first step.