How to raise a vein

How to raise a vein if you're injecting drugs, including how to use a tourniquet more safely.

How to raise a vein for injecting

These simple tips and techniques can help you raise a vein before you inject:

  • Drink plenty of water – staying hydrated helps boost your blood circulation
  • Get yourself warm – wrap up in lots of layers, have a hot meal, walk around for a bit or have a warm shower
  • Soak wherever you’re injecting in warm water – do this for a few minutes, or run warm water over it. Do not inject in the bath. If you’re injecting downers you may fall asleep, while injecting cocaine in the bath raises your risk of heart problems
  • Do some exercise – try running or jumping on the spot or doing some arm curls with a dumbbell or can of food
  • Gently tapping or stroking your veins for about 20-30 seconds will help them stand out

If you’re injecting into your arm you can:

  • Wrap a warm towel around your hand and arm – or hold a warm flannel against the vein you’re going to use
  • Let your arm hang down – slowly clench and unclench your hand
  • Swing your arm around in a big circle like a windmill – this helps more blood flow into your arm

Smoking or vaping before you inject will make your veins narrower. 

Using a tourniquet (tying off)

A tourniquet is a band or strap you fasten around your arm to slow down the blood flow.

Only use a tourniquet if you can’t find a vein without one. If the veins are easy to reach, a tourniquet would put unnecessary pressure on your veins which can lead to increased harm.

If you do use a tourniquet, first make sure you can release it quickly and easily. It’s important not to make the tourniquet too tight, as this can constrict the arteries which makes finding a vein more difficult.

Use a special tourniquet or a wide, elastic belt. It should be easy to loosen the tourniquet without letting go of the syringe.

To use a tourniquet safely:

  • Dangle your arm down and open and close your hand a few times
  • Fasten the tourniquet around your upper arm. It should be tight enough to slow down your blood flow but not stop it completely
  • Lift your arm back up and find a vein
  • Unfasten the tourniquet once you’re sure the needle is in your vein and before you start injecting. If you don’t, you risk tearing the vein
  • If you’re having trouble raising a vein, undo the tourniquet and start again. Do not leave it on for too long

If you suspect someone has had a drug overdose ...

  1. Make sure it’s safe for you to approach the person

  2. Try to wake them by talking loudly to them and gently shaking their shoulders

  3. Check if they're breathing by looking to see if their chest is moving

  4. Put them in the recovery position 

  5. Call 999 for an ambulance, telling emergency services what you know


If you suspect someone has overdosed, it’s always best to administer naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and fentanyl.

Drugs bought illicitly can contain a mixture of substances, including opioids, so use naloxone if you have it. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them.

How to use a naloxone injection 

How to use a naloxone nasal spray 

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