Deep Vein Thrombosis – DVT

Blood clot diagram (Thrombus)

Blood Clot

Most of us at one time or another, have probably either known someone with DVT, or been unfortunate enough to end up with one of those ‘clots from hell’ ourselves. Deep Vein Thrombosis or thrombophlebitis as it is sometimes known, is a painful and serious condition and over the last twenty years in particular, drug users have ended up losing limbs, their health and even their lives because of it.

As the Government continues to skimp on providing access to better alternatives to drug treatments, users continue to shoot up substitute substances, often becoming addicted to those as well. Drug users may also have the added problems of their medical treatment often being, how shall we say, ‘less than satisfactory’ and so may miss out on important, even life saving information. So, what is DVT, what’s the treatment, how do you avoid it and if you’ve got DVT – how can you look after yourself with it. This IS NOT something you can sort out yourself. If you think you may have DVT you must see a doctor and in a moment we’ll tell you why.

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Basically, it means the blockage of a deep vein by a blood clot (called a thrombus or embolus if it is some other foreign material that has caused the blockage), usually localised around the deep veins in the calf but it can extend into the deep veins of the thigh and even beyond, particularly for drug users who inject in the groin. The bigger/more extensive the clot, the more serious the condition becomes. A clot can grow in size and not only block other veins but bits of it can break off and travel or ‘fly’ through the venous system, landing in potentially life threatening areas like the lung, causing difficulty in breathing (becoming fatal if massive) the brain, the blood supply gets cut off and brain cells starve and die producing stokes, the heart causing heart attacks, or even moving towards the spine causing serious infection. It can also occur in the portal vein which conveys blood to the liver. Along with deep veins, the venous system also has superficial or smaller thinner veins which can also become blocked by clots and while this can be associated with DVT, rarely are the two systems blocked at the same time.

If you’d like to read the rest of this article from Black Poppy magazine, click here.

Clostridium

Remember the news that seems to pop up each year concerning contaminated heroin? Dozens of injecting drug users have died over the years from contaminated heroin containing the bactrium Clostridium. And while it is still reasonably rare – it DOES HAPPEN with reasonable regularity and we see no reason why such a bacteria would stop any time soon. There are things you can do to keep aware of it though. Be sure to check out info on Anthrax as well (being another emerging poison affecting injecting drug users – and it seems heroin smokers as well.)

If you are an intravenous or intramuscular injector – this concerns you.

The bacteria (Clostridium) has been present in a few batches of contaminated heroin over the last few years, which appeared to particularly affect people who either injected into the muscle, skin-popped, or who missed a vein when injecting. Tragically, around 35 drug users have died as a result so far.

Over the last 10 years, various outbreaks have occurred affecting drug users in Dublin, Glasgow and London as they began turning up in surgeries and hospitals, exhibiting very similar symptoms to each other. It was initially thought that the same batch of heroin had been ‘retrieved’, mixed with different gear to disguise the ‘look’ and put back out on the street for re-sale.

This was a Black Poppy leaflet, to read the rest, click here.

Abscesses; Sterile or Infected?

An abscess on the skin, showing the redness an...

An abscess on the skin, showing the redness, swelling & characteristic blackish ring surrounding the head.

Identification, Treatment and Prevention

Abscesses are something most of us have encountered before and they can be excruciatingly painful. Sympathetic medical care can be hard to come by for many of us who use drugs and so some people resort to treating themselves. This can lead to some serious complications as the toxicity of an abscess can vary considerably. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to getting to grips with an abscess….

Abscesses present themselves as raised lumps on the skin and can either be sterile or infected.

Many drug injectors will have an abcess at some stage in their inecting careers but it is by no means a certainty – they can be prevented.

A sterile abscess is caused by injecting either an irritating or insoluble substance into a vein – particularly so if you miss the vein and your drugs leak into the muscle / skin area. It may develop slowly and not usually show signs of heat although there may be a touch of redness and it can feel like a solid nodule under the skin but generally will not be sore to the touch. Don’t try to squeeze or poke it as it will usually go away in its own time ( although this can take quite a while and it may look pretty ugly.) See ‘What’s in an Abscess’ for what happens if you decide to squeeze…

An infected abscess, on the other hand, is a different story. Caused by either using non-sterile injecting equipment or by bacteria from your skin entering under the skin via the injecting process, an infected abscess will soon come up as a swollen lump on or near the injection site. Appearing inflamed and red, it feels hot to the touch and soon becomes very painful. The abscess may come to a ‘head’ or ‘point’ and be filled with pus. It can be tempting to squeeze or burst it now – but DON’T! This will only spread the infection, driving it deeper and wider, and it could head for the bloodstream giving you blood poisoning.

If you want to know what inside your abscess – here’s a little insight – For the remaining article, which appeared in Black Poppy issue 2, click here.

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