california intravenous iv drugs cause cellulitis

California Drug Users: Cellulitis from Intravenous (IV) Drugs

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There are various ways to take drugs. Among the most common are smoking and ingesting orally. Another example is intravenous drug use or IV injection I there are several ways of taking drugs into the body, then there are also different types of drugs people can use. One of the most dangerous drugs available these days is heroin, an opioid drug that’s rapidly spread across the United States in large part due to the prescription drug Oxy-Contin. Additional drugs among the most abused drugs in the U.S. include methamphetamine, cocaine, and opioid painkillers such as Percocet or Vicodin®.

What Cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a painful soft tissue and skin infection caused by staphylococcus aureus bacterium. It is also a common form of staph infection that is usually caused by fungi, oral and streptococcal bacteria. Sometimes, it will spread throughout your body and affect more than the original point of infection. As cellulitis spreads, inflammation and redness pass through the limbs and other body parts. This is not good because it means your infection is thriving.

Risks of Cellulitis in the Body

When you use the IV injection method for taking drugs, you are risking your health. There’s a lot more you could contract besides cellulitis. IV drug injection weakens the immune system while making the body more prone to infection. If you have cellulitis and you don’t take action in treating it, the infection may develop into more serious skin complications. Once the staph bacteria gets into the skin, the natural defenses of the body start to work. In an infection, the white blood cells fight against the invading bacteria.

Usually, an infection will develop near or at the injected area. Suddenly, the signs will emerge and may appear in 2-5 days after the bacterial invaders gain foothold on the skin. When cellulitis is visible, the rash and sore will rapidly expand during the first twenty-four hours. The signs may include the following:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • stiff joints
  • fatigue
  • inflammation
  • chills and fever
  • blisters
  • dimpled skin

The infected area is commonly warm and has excessive pain when touched. The skin seems glossy because it becomes tight. It’s really important to take note of these symptoms before it turns into a more severe problem in the future. However, don’t try to cure it without an expert’s help. Improper treatment of cellulitis may only lead to more dangerous and deadly infections on the skin.

How IV Injection Causes Cellulitis

With intravenous drug abuse, there can be negative effects that are harmful in the body’s immune system. The problem is that people know that IV drug addiction is not good and yet, they continue to use it. Perhaps, the best way to help them is to let them know how IV drug use causes cellulitis.

Here are some of the common factors that cause cellulitis:

  • Skin. The skin itself is a host for various microorganisms and bacteria. Every day, our skin is exposed to a lot of pollutants including fungi and viruses. There are friendly bacteria that enter through the skin, however, there are also damaging bacteria that can harm the body such as the case with staph infections like cellulitis. When you use intravenous drug injections, the bacteria can also enter through the tissues and invade the entire body.
  • It’s important to carefully clean the skin before injecting anything into it. Medically trained individuals are required to properly disinfect the area to be injected so that pathogens and bacteria are eliminated. Some people will lick the area instead of putting alcohol to kill the bacteria and this can be dangerous. When you fail to clean the area, the IV injection will carry the bacteria into the skin and cause infections such as cellulitis.
  • Type of drugs. Since there are various types of drugs used today, it’s essential to determine which one is the most hazardous. For instance, a combination of cocaine and heroin known as speedballs are truly dangerous when it comes to skin infections.
  • Needles, wash water, filters, spoons, and other drug paraphernalia might be contaminated. When used, they can infect the body while quickly harming the immune system. This could happen when you share needles, clean needles with saliva or fail to properly clean the area to be injected, or through the reuse of needles.

What Is Skin Popping?

Chronic use of drugs can extensively damage your veins making them inaccessible. When this happens, the person may suffer from skin popping. This condition is caused by injecting drugs under the skin rather than into the veins. Such method is associated with increased cellulitis where IV drug users are said to be more prone to staph infection.

Some people inject drugs into the area which has been infected already. If you do so, you only overwhelm that spot, such as the groin, with more bacteria. Since there are certain body parts that are not easy to clean, the infection grows and spreads throughout the entire body.

Other Complications of Having Cellulitis

Cellulitis, when left untreated, could develop into more serious complications such as:

  • meningitis
  • lymphangitis or lymph vessels inflammation
  • endocarditis or heart infection
  • shock
  • tissue death or gangrene
  • osteomyelitis or bone infection
  • abscesses

In addition, improper treatment of staph infection could develop a stronghold of bacteria in the blood called blood poisoning or sepsis. When a person has sepsis infection, the bacteria spread throughout the body and pose major threats such as death. You wouldn’t want to reach this stage, as there is a very low chance of surviving.

Immediate Treatment

It’s important to seek early treatment in order to reverse the symptoms of cellulitis. Usually, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics and perform blood examinations to treat the infection. After the laboratory tests, they may prescribe a more appropriate type of antibiotic to ensure successful treatment. However, those who are suffering from opioid abuse, a more comprehensive treatment will be done by the doctor. Additionally, you have to stop abusing drugs. Getting drug treatment is essential to not putting your life at risk anymore.


To keep the immune system strong, drinking plenty of water and getting enough rest are needed. Advanced infections require more intensive treatment to avoid complications. Of course, your health should always be a priority so following the advice of your doctor is the best thing to do while avoiding harmful substances that can be pollutants to your body.

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