Working with people who inject isn’t just about giving out sterile equipment, you should also be aware of some of the more practical issues faced by people on a daily basis. Of course one of the major ones is getting a vein to inject into in the first place, and being warm makes that easier.
This is the first in a short series of articles aimed at increasing access to veins.
I’ve covered issues around raising a vein before on this site (see my article on the best way to use a tourniquet) but this time I’m going to talk about one of the easiest things you can do to help a vein stand up and say hello.
Heat will help dilate veins (dilation is where a vein gets bigger). Keeping warm before injecting will make them easier to find. Remember it’s just as important to warm your body as it is the area you’re injecting. Here are some suggestions to help:
On that last point; it would be difficult for some people who are homeless to afford heat packs, but given how these can help reduce the amount of vein damage then this is really something we should be considering a standard item in the better NSPs.
Raising a vein: Food and exercise
Raising a vein: Slapping and gravity
Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice. He’s been working in harm reduction since the 1990’s, previously a frontline needle programme worker he now splits his time between photography and developing online resources for drugs workers and users.