For injecting drug users, the very sight of a needle can invoke a rush. The memories, the feelings and experiences associated with intravenous drug administration can all bring a user to feel high. The needle is associated with blissful feelings, euphoria, relaxation and excitement. These feelings are very tempting and addictive.
The pull of a drug addiction is very intense, especially for heroin or cocaine addicts. The ritual associated with the drug use is just as much of the experience of getting high as the drugs themselves. Users describe the positive feelings they have when they go through the ritual of obtaining the drugs, cooking, drawing the mixture into the needle and finding a vein to use and finally inserting, drawing back and releasing the mixture into their body. This preparation stage in drug use is possibly as addictive as the injection and the drug.
Addiction to a Needle
For injecting drug addicts, a significant hurdle for them to overcome in their recovery is the addiction to the needle, or as some addicts describe it, a love affair. In one study, users described a closeness and connection with their needle and fondly recall memories of using for the first time. They have been found to mourn the loss of the relationship and the lifestyle associated with their drug addiction.
Research has suggested that people who have an intravenous addiction to methamphetamine, cocaine or opium have been found to exhibit dopamine releases in the brain when they are handling paraphernalia associated with the drug. This phenomenon is known as stimulus-conditioning and users report small amounts of euphoria due to anticipated rewards associated with a needle.
People who have intense cravings for needles will inject drugs or other substances, even water, as a way to feed their cravings. It is suggested that some people find the process of injection soothing, even if there is no drug high associated with it. Some individuals may associate with lifestyles that use needles such as having piercings, tattoos or self-harm. They may also go to medical facilities to get blood tests to relieve these cravings.
Individuals who have a needle fixation will often continue to inject even if they are injecting water, have sores and infections or there are serious consequences to their actions. The presence of abscesses, cellulitis, collapsed veins or risk of using an infected or dirty needle often is not strong enough for a person to not inject. Desperate to relieve their cravings, a person could put themselves at risk of more serious issues than a sore or collapsed vein.