What Do Heroin Track Marks Look Like?
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What Do Heroin Track Marks Look Like?

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

Medically reviewed by

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

March 28, 2019

Heroin is opiate that is highly addictive and illegal. People who use heroin sometimes do so by injecting the drug intravenously. This can leave track marks, a telltale sign of heroin abuse.

Heroin is a highly addictive substance that is part of the opioid class of drugs. Heroin use and abuse has been on the rise since 2007, and more and more people die from heroin overdose each year.

Heroin is derived from poppy plants and is often available in a white or brown powder. Most heroin found on the street is “cut” with other substances such as sugar, powdered milk, cocaine, or starch.

Many people who abuse heroin do so by dissolving it so that it can be injected intravenously. Injecting, or “shooting,” heroin is the most dangerous way to use the drug and can leave people with track marks. Track marks are a common sign of heroin abuse.

Heroin Track Marks

Many people who use heroin do so by injecting the drug intravenously. This produces a faster, more intense high compared to other ways the drug is taken. However, injecting heroin puts people at an increased risk for a number of dangers and side effects.

Injecting heroin leaves something called track marks at the place where the drug is injected. The drug is injected into a vein, so most track marks are found where veins are readily accessible. This may include the inner arms, hands, legs, and between the toes.

Some people may switch between areas of the body to inject the drug in order to hide heroin use by preventing noticeable track marks. They may also use different areas to shoot up heroin when one part of the body becomes irritated or infected.

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Using heroin intravenously can also cause sores, holes, or abscesses where the drug is injected. These conditions can lead to health problems like infections that can spread to other parts of the body.

Paraphernalia associated with shooting heroin may also be found around a person who injects the drug. This may include needles, cotton balls, spoons, and bowls as well as a tourniquet used to make the veins more visible.

What Do Track Marks From Heroin Use Look Like?

Heroin track marks that are recent will look like fresh wounds similar to when you get your blood drawn. There may also be bruising or scabbing where the injection was made.

Heroin track marks that are older may appear as scars that are raised. They may also have some discoloration compared to the surrounding skin. In the case of infections and abscesses, scars may be more prominent and the area may be discolored and irritated.

Dangers Of Heroin Track Marks

Shooting heroin is one of the most dangerous ways to use this drug. People who inject heroin are exposed to a number of risk factors that can affect someone’s overall health.

Risk factors of injecting heroin may include:

  • bloodborne illnesses and diseases
  • infection
  • weakened muscles
  • collapsed veins
  • sores
  • holes at the injection site
  • abscesses
  • toxic buildup in the veins
  • lung, brain, liver, and kidney damage

The longer someone uses heroin, the more likely he or she is to experience these risk factors. Quitting heroin and achieving sobriety is the best way to prevent these dangers from happening.

Getting Help For Heroin Abuse And Addiction

Overcoming addiction to heroin can be very difficult, and few people can do it on their own. Most individuals will need a comprehensive treatment program to successfully give up heroin and remain sober.

Inpatient treatment programs have shown great success for people addicted to heroin. Inpatient programs offer daily intensive treatment that is customized to meet the unique needs and condition of each patient.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Heroin

KidsHealth - Heroin: What Parents Need to Know

Heroininfo.org - Signs of Heroin Addiction & Symptoms of Heroin Use

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