Substance Use

What Do Track Marks Look Like?

person injecting drugs in arm track marks

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Identifying Track Marks: What Do They Look Like?

Track marks are visible lesions and bruises that indicate someone is injecting substances. Often, these substances are opioids, but those struggling with addiction inject a wide range of drugs, including stimulants. If you have noticed track marks on your loved one’s arms, hands, legs, feet, or elsewhere, you must voice your concerns and offer support. 

Zinnia Health helps people who have hit rock bottom. Track marks mean your loved one is engaging in dangerous, life-threatening activities. Learn more about the treatment process and reach out at (855) 430-9439 to discover your options.

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How To Spot Track Marks 

Have you noticed markings or bruising on your loved one? Are these marks paired with abnormal behavior and diminishing health? If so, substance abuse may be the issue. Intravenous (IV) drug use causes marks to develop around injection sites. 

When a user injects drugs, marks form, typically along a vein. These marks can look like bruising, puncture wounds, or scabs and are more likely to show in areas subject to frequent injections. The area does not have time to heal, and track marks surface following damage to a vein. Discoloration and abscesses are also common. 

Once identified, track marks indicate drug use and, for many, severe addiction. When a user begins injecting their drug of choice, this is a warning sign that their drug use has escalated.

Injecting drugs like heroin can increase your risk of serious complications. For example, substantially increased risk for infectious diseases. As IV drug use worsens, whether it be heroin addiction or another opioid addiction, the risk of severe complications increases. 

If you notice various stages of healing, including some areas with scar tissue, your loved one has likely been using injectable drugs for quite some time. At this point, they will often need professional support to recover from addiction.

Where Are Track Marks Typically Found?

Track marks are often found on the arms, legs, feet, and hands. The arms and hands are accessible, and many can inject drugs without anyone noticing. Arms are easy to cover up with long sleeves. So, look for marks on your loved one’s hands.

Once collapsed veins are too damaged on someone’s arms and hands, they’ll often move to their legs and feet. Veins can be harder to reach in the legs, but these marks are also easily covered.

Skin popping” is also another common method of administration. If your loved one has been injecting drugs under the skin, this will create visible lesions and track mark scars. This route of administration is preferred among those who dislike injecting directly into their veins. While some people opt for this method to reduce their risk of overdose, there are still many risks, especially concerning blood-borne diseases. 

Is My Loved One Using Heroin?

When you see track marks, heroin use is often the first thought — and in some cases, this is an accurate assumption. However, heroin is not the only injectable drug nor the only drug that’s abused intravenously. Other commonly injected drugs include cocaine, prescription stimulants, painkillers, and methamphetamines. 

Some drugs increase the risk of overdose more than others. For example, synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are responsible for a rising rate of overdose deaths. According to the CDC, in 2021, synthetic opioids were involved in 70,601 overdose deaths.

However, other drugs also contribute to a rise in overdose deaths. The death toll related to stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine, was 32,537 overdose deaths in 2021. 

Injecting drugs is strongly related to fatal and non-fatal overdoses, regardless of the substance of choice. 

If you have seen track marks on your loved one and are unsure how to proceed, Zinnia Health is available 24/7. Check out all locations and contact us to discuss your loved one’s needs. Taking action as soon as possible could make all the difference.

The Risks of Using Intravenous Drugs 

There are many risks associated with intravenous drugs, ranging from permanent track marks to accidental overdose. When injecting drugs, it can be challenging to gauge the exact dose. Accidental overdoses are most common among those who inject drugs, especially when drugs are mixed with other substances like fentanyl. Users can inject a much stronger dose than they’re used to when they are unaware. 

Track marks and scarring are warning signs someone is injecting drugs. However, the most significant damage often cannot be seen. For example, injecting drugs increases your risk of endocarditis — inflammation of the heart’s lining. Left untreated, this condition can severely damage your heart valves and is often life-threatening.

The opioid crisis has increased the incidence of injection-related complications, including severe infections, viral hepatitis, and HIV. In most cases, these infections are spread via dirty needles. Community-based programs offer syringe services to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. These conditions are preventable, so taking immediate action is vital. 

Another concern is wound botulism, a severe illness that can be life-threatening. For those who use black tar heroin, this risk is a serious concern. Once the associated toxin is in your body, it can attack your nerve cells. This potentially fatal complication can make breathing hard, cause muscle weakness, and result in death. 

Symptoms of this illness generally appear days after injecting drugs and include the following:

  • Double or blurred vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A thick-feeling tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paralysis in severe cases

How To Get Help If You Suspect Addiction

Seeing track marks on a loved one can be a shocking and frightening experience. It is at this moment that many realize the gravity of the situation. If your loved one is at the point within their addiction that they’re injecting drugs, it is time to offer support. 

When given the opportunity to get clean, your loved one can create a new life for themselves. Each time they inject a drug, they increase the risk of life-altering or even fatal consequences. Depending on the circumstances, they’ll likely require detox support. Addiction treatment will follow, offered as an inpatient or outpatient program. Regardless of which program you choose, it’s crucial that your loved one partners with a facility that offers holistic, evidence-based treatment. 

Each individual will receive a treatment plan tailored to their unique history, needs, and goals. Some thrive within a support group setting, whereas others prefer to target their substance use and mental health concerns within an individualized setting. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a highly effective treatment option, as are alternative therapies, like art therapy

Ready to take the next step? If so, Zinnia Health offers a range of drug abuse and mental health programs. Contact our supportive, caring team at (855) 430-9439 to discuss your options. We’re here to help your family navigate this journey. 

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(855) 430-9439
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