Trusted Content

Communicable Diseases From IV Drug Use

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 18, 2019

When it comes to getting high on drugs, the fastest way to get the desired effect is to inject the drug directly into your veins. What many drug users aren’t aware of, however, is that the needle giving them a high might also be giving them any number of diseases.

How Does This Happen?

Injectable drugs such as heroin and cocaine are illegal. The main way a user gets them is by buying them from a drug dealer, but that dealer is not generally the first person to have contact with the drug. In fact, as one supplier sells to another, the drug is often cut with many other substances, such as other drugs and even starch. This means that oftentimes an addicted individual has no clue what they’re really putting into their body.

In parts of the world, outbreaks of disease have been linked to drug use, likely because the drug in question was contaminated with spores of the disease. There was a report of malaria in Spain due to intravenous drug use, and according to reports, cases of anthrax in both England and Scotland have occurred among heroin users since 2009.

Contaminated Needles

Because these drugs are illegal and the syringes used to inject them are generally found without a doctor’s permission, many addicts end up sharing needles. According to the UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program, skin infections among IV drug users are extremely common, with 11 percent of IV drug users reporting at least one abscess within the last six months. Sterilizing needles can help, but can’t prevent contaminants in the drugs themselves.

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

Diseased Needles

The examples above with anthrax and malaria are just the tip of the contaminated iceberg, so to speak. The UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program also estimates that up to 89 percent of injectable substances sold on the street are contaminated with at least one pathogen, often bacteria or fungi. Most addicts aren’t concerned with the long-term results of their actions when they’re shooting up, but those consequences can be very serious.

Diseases associated with contaminated needles include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, staph infections, and musculoskeletal infections.


These diseases can have even more dire consequences than the above and can affect others, as well. Pregnant mothers may pass many of these conditions to their unborn children. Endocarditis, a heart condition, is an inflammation of the inner lining of the heart and is often seen in heroin and cocaine addicts. When drug users inject, they frequently choose veins that drain into one side of the heart, and it can become unbalanced and inflamed. Long-term consequences include damaged and destroyed heart valves.

HIV and AIDS lower the resistance of the immune system, which often leads to a host of other problems. Even if a user is able to get off injectable drugs, scars usually remain to mark a former user.

Get Help

The best and most effective way to avoid these diseases and consequences is to stop doing intravenous drugs. We know that it’s often easier said than done, and we’re here to help. We can guide you to treatment centers that specialize in cocaine and heroin addiction, and we’re available to talk right now. Contact us at and start on your path to a healthier life today.

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Let Regard Healthcare walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592