How Can Drug Use Cause Blood-Borne Infections?

Heroin is an illicit street drug derived from opium poppy plants that has claimed the lives of many Americans through fatal overdose. Alongside overdose and addiction, individuals using heroin are at a high risk of contracting one of several blood-borne infections.

Enrolling in a heroin treatment program can help you recover from an addiction to this powerful narcotic and further avoid the risks of contracting a life-threatening disease.

Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal street drug.

Heroin, or diacetylmorphine, is an opioid drug first created from morphine in 1898 by Bayer Pharmaceuticals as a cough suppressant. As an opioid analgesic, heroin is highly effective at relieving pain and is twice as strong as morphine. Heroin abuse has been particularly prominent in previous decades due to its euphoric and sedative properties.

Following use, a person may experience a distinct feeling of heaviness, fatigue and blissful oblivion, making them vulnerable to dangerous situations as they nod in and out of consciousness, unaware of their circumstances and surroundings. Unlike morphine, heroin is not approved for medical use in the United States.

You can contract an infection by injecting heroin.

Heroin can be used by sniffing, snorting, smoking or injecting intravenously. Each method of use carries its own specific dangers. All forms result in rapid absorption, but injecting heroin is the fastest, requiring less than one minute to fully saturate in the bloodstream. This way, heroin is heated on a metal object—like a spoon—and injected into a muscle or vein using a hypodermic needle. Intravenous injection is the preferred method for many individuals because of the immediate euphoric rush.

By injecting heroin, a person is at a high risk of developing a number of health conditions, including bacterial and fungal infections. In addition, individuals using heroin in groups may share needles and syringes, which can lead to contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, STDs and tuberculosis.

Infectious diseases pose a serious risk to your health.

A person can contract an infectious disease by using and sharing contaminated injection equipment. Here are four medical conditions a person struggling with heroin addiction faces:


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system and can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) if left untreated. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 10 new HIV cases are caused by injecting drugs or male-to-male sexual activity and injection drug use. There is no cure for HIV, and although it can be managed through medication, drug therapy is too expensive or inaccessible for many.

Some people experience flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after infection while others don’t display any symptoms. The best way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.


The likelihood of contracting hepatitis B and C is increasingly high in those who inject drugs, and many don’t know they have it until years later. Although some people can clear these viruses successfully, a majority of individuals develop chronic hepatitis B or C. This can lead to liver damage, liver failure, and liver cancer. Those who do exhibit symptoms of both viral infections may experience:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • dark urine
  • poor appetite
  • stomach pain
  • clay-colored stool
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes

For acute and chronic infections, supportive therapies and antiviral medications are available to treat hepatitis B. Avoiding shared drug equipment and getting vaccinated are the best ways to prevent hepatitis B.

However, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. If you are concerned about this strain, the best thing you can do is get tested right away. If discovered early on, treatments can cure most people within 8 to 12 weeks.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

An infection can develop when naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi spread beyond their normal places on or in the body. This can occur as a result of injecting into skin that has not been cleaned or by using drug equipment that is contaminated by reuse, saliva, soil or dirty water. Administering the drug with unclean hands can also contaminate the injection site.

Other serious complications can occur, such as heart infections, which trigger damaging inflammation of the inner lining of the chambers and valves, the heart muscle and the tissue that forms the protective sac.

Treatment of these conditions will likely require prolonged hospital care for many patients. The best way to avoid these conditions is to find a licensed treatment center for heroin addiction.

Recovery begins in a heroin treatment program.

Overdose and addiction are often the focal points of discussion regarding heroin use. However, intravenous injections come with a significant risk of contracting blood-borne infections like HIV/AIDs, hepatitis B and C, bacterial or fungal infections and heart inflammation.

These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Although some can be prevented via vaccination and treated with drug therapies, the best way to avoid impairing your health is to get clean. This may be easier said than done, but in a heroin treatment program, you will have all the support, comfort and resources you need to accomplish it.

Casa Palmera, located in West Los Angeles, specializes in treating patients with substance use disorders and addiction to dangerous drugs, including heroin. We understand that heroin is unlike any other addictive substance. From the first use, dependency and withdrawal symptoms set in, making the idea of quitting seem nearly impossible. If you or a loved one struggles with heroin addiction, the time to seek help is now. Our heroin treatment program is tailored to combat addiction effectively and is guided by a team of experts that understand what you’re going through. Contact us today to learn how we can guide you through recovery.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.