Drugs you smoke
Drugs you drink
Drugs you inject
How do drugs affect my HIV meds?

Drugs you inject…

Sharing needles to inject drugs into your veins is a very easy way to get HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases. When you share needles, a small amount of blood from the people who used the needle before you is passed on to you. If their blood has HIV in it, or another disease, it will be injected along with the drug into your bloodstream.

The safest choice is to make sure that you and the people you are injecting drugs with use a clean needle every time you inject or share drugs. Don’t ever share needles. If you live in Vancouver, you can go to the safe injection site (Insite) to get help and/or clean equipment. There are many needle exchange programs where you can get FREE clean needles. And don’t throw your old needles into the garbage! Dispose of them in a container that is only for this purpose and then take the used needles to the needle exchange program, where the staff will be happy to get rid of them for you properly.

If you don’t have a clean, brand-new needle, you can clean your needles with bleach. BUT it is very hard to completely clean a used needle, so cleaning usually only lowers the risk of getting HIV.


3 step method:

  1. Water x 1 Fill the syringe with water, shake it, then empty it.
  2. Bleach x 2 Fill the syringe with pure bleach, shake it for 30 seconds, then empty it. Do this twice!
  3. Water x 2 Fill the syringe with water, shake it, then empty it. Do this twice!

Syringe-This is the part the needle is put on. It’s a tube that holds whatever the needle is going to put into you.

Don’t forget the clean the spoon or cooker in pure bleach and water, and change filters. Blood particles are there, too.

Look out for abscesses!

Some people get abscesses from using drugs. An abscess is a pocket of pus, usually in the arms or legs. An abscess is an infection. If you think you have an abscess, get in touch with a health care professional right away. [Check out the Getting Help section for more information.]

Muscling: This is when you inject the drug into your muscle. Muscling is a very painful way to use drugs and it puts you at high risk for getting an abscess or other tissue infections. Try to avoid muscling.

Skin popping: This is when you inject drugs under your skin. Skin popping is an extremely painful way of using drugs and it puts you at high risk for getting an abscess or other tissue infections. Try to avoid skin popping.

Crystal meth, GHB and ecstasy

If you do use these drugs make sure:

  1. You drink lots of water.
  2. You tell someone what drugs you are using and how much.

These drugs can affect your body and mind in a number of different ways. To stay healthy it is better to try to stop using these drugs. But, if you are planning on using them, it is important to note the following:

  • Using crystal meth, GHB or ecstasy often makes you lose your appetite and keeps you up so that you’re not able to sleep. Since it’s so important tot eat and sleep well to stay healthy this can make it harder for your body to fight the HIV virus.
  • When you are high it is easier to forget to take your meds. So, you need to bring your meds with your party weekend and figure out a way to remember to take them. Again, taking your meds on a regular schedule can’t be stressed enough!
  • Some stimulants like cocaine and crystal meth can increase the HIV viral replication in your body. This puts extra stress on your immune system.

Hospital for Sick Children University of Toronto Positive Youth Outreach CATIE