Over the last decade, the number of people that became opiate addicts because they started using heroin before any other opiate has gone up to 34%. That means that one out of three people that suffer from opioid addiction started with heroin. Heroin has become a major factor in the current opioid epidemic. If you think someone you know is using drugs, one of the first things you may want to know is, “What do track marks look like?” 

One of the first visible signs of intravenous drug use is track marks. Injecting drugs is when a drug user uses a needle to deliver a dose of narcotics directly into their vein for an instant high.

Heroin and IV drug use go hand and hand, but addicts have been known to inject: 

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Ecstasy
  • Ketamine
  • PCP
  • Crack Cocaine

For the best chances of recovery from substance abuse, drug use needs to be identified as soon as possible. In this post, we’ll be learning how to spot early signs of drug addiction, specifically, what track marks look like, so if you have a loved one struggling with drug abuse, you get them the help they need. 

The Risks of Intravenous Drug Use and Not Identifying Track Marks

Iv drug use is very dangerous, and there are many IV drug use risks that you need to know about. Over 1/3 of the people that inject drugs share the needles they use with other drug users. Sharing syringes greatly increases the chances that the individual with contract: 

  • HIV 
  • hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B
  • Endocarditis 

People that are intravenous drug users make up over 10% of new HIV cases in the U.S. Also, because heroin users never know how strong the next fix will be and how fast they feel the effects from injecting drugs, IV drug users are much more at risk of an accidental overdose than others. Studies have also shown that people that inject drugs are at significant risk for suicide and suicide attempts. When you add up all the risks: 

  • Disease 
  • Overdose
  • Suicide

Intravenous drug users are at a much greater risk for death than the average person.

What Do Track Marks Look Like

How Can I Identify Track Marks? 

If you want to learn what track marks look like, you need to look at the arms of the person you think is using drugs and try to identify any small holes. Here are the tell-tale signs of what track marks look like:

  • Small punctures in the arm that are either red, brown, black, or pink. They may even resemble a mosquito bite.
  • Small scabs are usually found where the inner elbow of the arm is.
  • Scars that are white, pink, or purple. 
  • Visible make-up that has been applied to the skin to cover up the signs of track marks.
  • Bruises that are caused by frequently shooting up in the same place.

Most drug addicts don’t use new needles every time they inject drugs, and as the needle becomes dull, it will cause more damage to their skin every time they use it. Bad health and a lack of personal hygiene are also contributors to how visible the track marks are. Using dirty needles can also lead to a bacterial infection, and if this happens, a large area around the injection site will swell up and be very noticeable.

Where Can You Find Track Marks At? 

The most common place to find track marks are on the hands and inner arms. You find track marks on the arms and hands so often because that’s where the most accessible veins are for the person to inject drugs. Another thing to look out for is wearing long-sleeved articles of clothing out of season. It’s common for addicts to wear long sleeves to cover up track marks.

It gets to a point in the IV drug addiction cycle that the user has to find other veins to use because the ones on their arms and hands have collapsed due to repeatedly puncturing them with needles. Technically, a person could inject drugs anywhere on their body there is a vein, but some of the more common places to look for track marks are:

  • Feet
  • Ankles
  • Neck
  • Underneath fingernails
  • Between toes
  • Penis

Track Marks Look Like

Risks of Track Marks

By far, most of the risks associated with drug use are the drugs themselves and the lifestyle the person is living but, track marks have some risks themselves. Here is a list of the risk that track marks impose:

  1. Bacteria on dirty needles can cause infections in the bloodstream. If that infection isn’t identified and treated, it can travel to the heart and become fatal.
  2. Unsanitary injection sites can lead to an abscess which will need antibiotics and possibly be drained by a doctor.
  3. Injecting repeatedly in the same vein will cause the veins to collapse, which will hinder blood circulation.
  4. Repeated IV drug use in the same vein can cause blood clots to form. If the blood clots break loose and travel to the person’s lungs, it will cause a pulmonary embolism which can be fatal.  

Other Signs of IV Drug Use

There are plenty of other signs of IV drug use besides track marks. Most of the time, it is a combination of different signs or behaviors that can mean your loved one is abusing drugs. Ask yourself these questions, and if you answer “yes” to more than two of them, you may want to seek help from a drug treatment center.

  • Does your loved one wear long sleeves when they shouldn’t?
  • Has the person been losing weight?
  • Have they been having mood swings or acting irrationally?
  • Are they asking you for money?
  • Do they look sleepy all the time?
  • Do they fall asleep during the middle of the day?
  • Do their pupils look abnormally big or small?

What Can I Do If I Think Someone Is Doing Drugs?

If you think you know what track marks look like and believe your loved one has track marks and is using drugs, you need to get help as fast as possible. Before you confront them, you need to develop an intervention plan to decide what type of care is appropriate for them. Once you have a plan, you can contact an addiction treatment center to get the help they so desperately need. 

If they are IV heroin users, they will need to go into a detox facility to withdraw from the opiates safely. When they are through with detox, depending on the level of care they need, they will need to go to:

  • Inpatient Treatment: Short-term inpatient treatment is where they will learn coping mechanisms to deal with substance abuse for two to four weeks at a treatment facility.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment: A program where they live at home but three to four times a week, they travel and take classes on drug addiction and learn the skills to stay sober.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program: It is the same as an IOP, but the classes are usually Monday-Friday.
  • Long-term Residential Treatment: Long-term residential is where they live in a residential setting with other people receiving treatment from addiction for at least six months.
  • Sober Living: These are usually apartments where sober people live together with a couple of rules. There is no set time for how long you can or can’t stay. This form of treatment usually comes after inpatient treatment.

Drug addiction can be treated as long as the right steps are taken. If you find signs of track marks or any other drug use, don’t wait. Get your loved ones the help they need so they can enjoy a happy life that is free from the pain and sadness of addiction.

Identify Track Marks

Get Your Loved One Addiction Help Today 

Since we’ve answered the question, “What do track marks look like?” You won’t be in the dark any longer with your loved one’s drug use. The faster you can recognize the signs of addiction, the better the odds that they can get treatment and recover from drug addiction. Confronting a friend or family member about possible drug addiction and not only be worrisome, but it can be dangerous if you don’t do it in the right way. The addiction specialist at Better Wellness Group wants to help. If you would like to discuss different options for treatment and develop an intervention plan call Better Wellness Group at 00000000000. We’re here to help with all of your questions and concerns.