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How to find a vein

Some veins are safer to inject into than others – here’s a quick guide.

Less risky

The veins in your arms are safer for injecting than other parts of your body.

Inside of your elbow

The veins are the safest place to inject. They are quite big and close to the surface.

Forearm

The veins here are smaller and deeper than the inside of your elbow.

This means you’re more likely to:

  • miss the vein or go through it
  • hit an artery, nerve or bone

If you do inject into a vein in your forearm make sure the needle is pointing away from your hand and towards your elbow.

Risky

Hand

Injecting into your hand is riskier than injecting into your arm.

The veins in your hands are small and collapse easily. You can help avoid this by injecting as slowly as possible.

Your hands may also have more bacteria on them than other parts of your body. This raises your risk of infections.

It’s important to wash them with soap and water before you inject.

How to reduce your risk of infections

Leg

Your blood flow is slower in your legs. This means, if you inject too quickly, you can end up with a collapsed vein or a missed hit (when you miss a vein). You can help avoid this by injecting as slowly as possible.

The slower blood flow also raises your risk of dangerous blood clots.

If you’re going into your leg the needle should point away from your foot and towards your heart.

Foot

The veins in your feet are smaller and more fragile than the ones in your hands. Your blood also flows slowly in your feet because they’re a long way from your heart.

This means you’re more likely to get a collapsed vein or a missed hit.

You can help avoid these problems by injecting as slowly as possible.

The slow blood flow in your feet also means that your vein takes longer to heal after a hit.

It’s important to wash your feet with soap and water before you inject.

Your feet may have more bacteria on them than other parts of your body. This raises your risk of infections.

Very risky

It’s very risky to inject into these parts of your body.

If you are thinking of injecting into these areas, speak to staff at your local needle and syringe service. They can help you find safer alternatives.

Groin

Injecting into your groin is very risky.

The veins in your groin (femoral veins) are very deep. They’re also very close to the main nerves and arteries going into your leg. This means you’re more at risk of damaging a nerve or hitting an artery.

Going into your groin raises your risk of wounds and infections.

You’re also more likely to get a dangerous blood clot.

Neck, breast, armpit, wrist, penis and deep veins

It’s never safe to inject into your neck, breast, armpit, wrist or penis, or to dig around for deep veins.

Watch out for ‘new’ veins

When veins collapse and get blocked, you may notice ‘new’ veins growing nearby.

These aren’t actually new veins. They are smaller veins that have become swollen because they’re carrying the blood from the blocked vein.

These swollen veins are very weak and usually burst if you try to inject into them.

They’re a sign that your veins are badly damaged.

Talk to staff at your local needle and syringe service. They can help you find safer alternatives.

Never go into an artery

Any blood vessel that has a pulse is an artery.

Arteries carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. The blood pressure in arteries is much higher than in veins.

You won’t get high if you inject a hit into an artery.

It’s also dangerous. Among other things, it can:

  • split the wall of the artery
  • cause bleeding that’s difficult to stop

You may have hit an artery if:

  • you feel pains like electric shocks as you start to dig
  • you feel a sudden cramping pain as the needle touches the artery
  • the blood is pink or bright red when you draw back
  • the plunger pops out as you try to inject (this is because of the high blood pressure in the artery)

If any of these things happen to you, take out the needle and apply firm pressure with a clean tissue or cotton wool.

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