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Substance Abuse and the Importance of Wound Care

It is no secret that substance abuse can lead to many different health problems. But perhaps one of the most serious is the prevalence of skin and flesh wounds, especially in people who inject drugs with a needle. Substance abuse and wound care often end up going hand in hand, and yet many people still do not seek treatment. This can be due to a worry of being judged harshly for their addiction, or simply because a user is not aware of the seriousness of this issue. But getting a wound cared for, especially one that is from substance abuse, is extremely important. Left untreated, substance abuse wounds can lead to very serious health problems – and even a higher risk of death.

Drugs That Can Cause Wounds


Heroin can lead to a number of different kinds of wounds because it is not sterile, which can lead to abscesses. These are infections underneath the skin that, if left untreated, can cause many different serious health issues. These include skin lesions, blood clots, and even sepsis, a potentially deadly bodily reaction to bacteria in the blood. Another reason why heroin carries such a high risk of wounds is because it is often mixed with citric acid. When injected, the citric acid in heroin can cause acid burns in blood vessels, veins, or other tissues. This causes the tissue to die, or to turn “necrotic,” which can result in amputation if not treated immediately.

Cocaine/Crack Cocaine

Both cocaine and crack cocaine can cause a few different types of open sores, typically when either drug is injected. These drugs can cause skin ulcers, abscesses, necrosis, and something called pustulosis. Pustulosis are small pimple-like bumps on the skin that are filled with pus and can pop open and bleed. People who smoke crack cocaine also often suffer from something called “crack hands”. This is a blackening of the fingers or hands from both smoke and frequent burns.


One of the hallmarks of a serious meth addiction is open sores on your body. This happens because, when people are high on meth, they often experience hallucinations that make them think that there are bugs under their skin, typically called “meth mites” or “crank bits”. When meth users have these hallucinations, they pick at their skin in order to get the imaginary insects out. This leads to open sores, which are a prime candidate for infection if not kept clean and dry. These infections can lead to tissue death, sepsis, and amputation.


While this drug originated in Russia, it has recently begun gaining popularity in a few different states in the U.S. as well. Krokodil is the street name for desomorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid, and is considered a cheaper alternative to heroin. Illicit krokodil is very dangerous because it is created using a mixture of toxic chemicals like gasoline, battery acid, and paint thinner. This makes it especially notorious for causing various wounds. Many people refer to it as “flesh-eating drug” or “zombie drug”. It causes skin and bone infections, abscesses, skin and tissue death, gangrene, and sepsis. Any of these issues can lead to amputation if not treated properly by a trained medical professional.

All of these drug-related wound symptoms can present very serious risks to both your short and long-term health. While it may be difficult to seek help when you are stuck in the cycle of addiction, it is absolutely necessary to help prevent long-term, painful problems with your overall health and well-being.

Substance Abuse and Wound Care

If you are abusing drugs, you need to take proper care of any wounds you may have, even if you are not ready to seek help at an addiction rehab facility. Substance abuse and wound care often end up going hand in hand, so you should try to educate yourself on what to do if you have a drug use-related wound.

Steps to Prevent Worsening Wounds

If you have an open wound, or think that you have a skin or tissue infection from drug use, there are steps that you should follow to help prevent these issues from becoming serious or life-threatening. These include:

  • Keep the would clean and free of dirt or debris.
  • Seek help by a trained medical professional. Emergency rooms frequently see people with substance abuse and wound care needs. They are trained to both provide immediate care for them. They also will give you advice on how to care for the wound yourself at home. 
  • Try to eat more fat and protein, as these two compounds are what your body uses to heal itself.
  • If you start experiencing fever, chills, or pain around a wound, your armpits, or your groin, seek immediate medical help. This can be a sign that you have developed sepsis. Sepsis needs to be treated immediately due to a high risk of death.

Wound Care Services in Nashville

The risk of serious wounds are not the only ones that drug abuse can cause. People who struggle with addiction also often struggle with many other side effects, both mental and physical. Substance abuse and wound care is a very commonly seen combination at addiction treatment facilities across the nation. At Detox Nashville, we employ highly-trained staff that can help heal your drug use-related wounds, and treat any lingering side effects that they may cause. At the same time, they can help you by getting to the root cause of your alcohol or drug addiction, and help you find the path to long-term sobriety and a healthy life. Contact us today at (615) 845-4747 or contact us below.