At Internal Medicine Report involving a case of potential infection and heroin addiction, one of the infection vectors brought up was – did the person reuse needles? For a lot of practitioners that probably seems like a pretty obvious question but one of the Hospitalists brought up a couple of other transmission vectors for practitioners to consider when looking for potential infection sources when dealing with needle administered drug addictions. Here’s 3 things to think about when working with potential infection and a needle drug addiction:
- Does the person reuse needles?
- Does the person lick the needle before injection?
- Has the person put the needle plunger in their ear?
The hospitalist conveyed that a wide held belief among injection drug users is that licking the needle will make the tip sharper and therefore ease the insertion. You can easily see that if this is their practice, injection drug users are opening themselves up to any number of contaminates from the mouth and saliva.
Did they stick the plunger where? Apparently as needle plungers become less effective, addicts may use ear wax to create a tighter seal to prolong the use of the needle which introduces another transmission vector for infections or pathogens.
If you know of other journal articles, pearls or questions like this or have anything else to add, please comment below or send me the information to update this posting – John.Jones@ucdenver.edu.
Here’s some articles that may be of interest:
- Del Giudice P, Vandenbos F, Boissy C, Cua E, Marion B, Bernard E, Dellamonica P, Counillon E. Cutaneous complications of direct intra-arterial injections in drug addicts. Acta Derm Venereol. 2005;85(5):451-2. PubMed PMID: 16159743. For more articles like this one use Related Articles.
- Del Giudice P. Cutaneous complications of intravenous drug abuse. Br J Dermatol. 2004 Jan;150(1):1-10. Review. PubMed PMID: 14746612. For more articles like this one use Related Articles.
- Ebright JR, Pieper B. Skin and soft tissue infections in injection drug users. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2002 Sep;16(3):697-712. Review. PubMed PMID: 12371123. For more articles like this one use Related Articles.
- Deutscher M, Perlman DC. Why some injection drug users lick their needles: a preliminary survey. Int J Drug Policy. 2008 Aug;19(4):342-5. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2007.06.006. Epub 2007 Jul 26. PubMed PMID: 18638706. For more articles like this one use Related Articles.
- Oh S, Havlen PR, Hussain N. A case of polymicrobial endocarditis caused by anaerobic organisms in an injection drug user. J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Oct;20(10):C1-2. PubMed PMID: 16191149; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1490230. For more articles like this one use Related Articles.
- Swisher LA, Roberts JR, Glynn MJ. Needle licker’s osteomyelitis. Am J Emerg Med. 1994 May;12(3):343-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 8179747. For more articles like this one use Related Articles.