How Substance Abuse Can Affect Your Chronic Wounds

By August 23, 2019Wound Care
How Substance Abuse Can Affect Your Chronic Wounds Reading Time: 3 minutes

Chronic wounds are difficult to manage under normal circumstances, but an addiction to drugs or alcohol compounds the problem.

Addiction to chemical substances is a complex issue that is not always rooted in poor choices. Genetics, mental illness, or self-medication can all form part of the addiction cycle.

Drug Addiction as The Cause of Chronic Wounds

Studies have shown that one-third of substance abusers will be prone to an injection-related abscess, sore, or open wound within a year of the start of their drug habit. Many of these wounds are directly related to their method of taking drugs.

    1. Skin Popping

      Drugs are seldom sterile as they are mixed with impurities such as citric acid, before being sold. Due to the high acidity of what is being injected, it causes a break-down or hardening (sclerosis) of the user’s veins. As the veins become a less viable option for injecting, users will resort to injecting straight into the muscles below the skin. This is known as ‘skin popping’. Some of the drug is absorbed into the body, but over time the residue build-up of the drug in the tissues leads to abscesses and ulcers.


  1. Shooter’s Patches

    In cases of long-term addiction, users run out of options to inject intravenously as their veins become more compromised. The wounds formed from regular drug use become the means of delivery for the drug into the body. They either inject into the wound site or pour the drugs straight onto the granulation tissue of the wound. This takes longer for the user to get their ‘fix’ but the reports indicate that the ‘high’ lasts longer.

Wound Healing – Substance Abuser vs. Someone Who Doesn’t

When it comes to the healing of chronic wounds, a substance abuser faces severe challenges over and above the difficulties faced by chronic wound sufferers who aren’t addicted.

Chronic Wound Sufferers Who Aren’t Abusers …

  • Tend to live more controlled, clean, lives.
  • Are more inclined to look after their chronic wounds by regularly cleaning and applying fresh dressings if instructed to do so by their medical practitioner.
  • Think clearly and can monitor their wounds for deterioration and get help quickly when needed.

Substance Abusers …

  • Tend to live chaotic lives, dictated to by their addiction.
  • Aren’t always able to make hygiene a priority as their cravings can become overwhelming and drown out normal life patterns.
  • Don’t always want their wounds to heal as they provide an easy entrance point for drugs. They often resort to applying talc or other foreign materials to keep the wound site from healing. Some have gone as far as comprising skin grafts after having their wounds evaluated by a medical professional.

Past Abusers Who Have Stopped Using Drugs

Is there hope for an addict’s chronic wounds to heal? If the user continues their lifestyle and habits, the wounds are likely to persist and get worse. But the moment a drug abuser can take control and conquer their addiction, the road to healing will begin in two ways:

  1. Drug abstinence takes away the user’s need to keep the wound site open. This immediately puts the patient and the medical personnel on the same team.
  2. As the user gains more control of their mind and life, they can start taking better care of themselves and living a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. This promotes wound healing by firstly, eliminating germs and further contamination of the wound, and secondly, supporting health through good nutrition.

Case studies were conducted on three separate addicts. While they each faced challenges unique to their situations, all three were able to conquer their habits and get professional help towards rehabilitation and healing. As addiction lost its grip on their lives, their chronic wounds healed.

The Right Team

Our professional licensed medical staff at RegenQuest has over 30 years of experience in advanced wound care and hyperbaric medicine. If you or a loved one are struggling with a chronic wound that won’t heal, contact us at (954) 571-9392. The journey to healing begins with the right team and we’re ready to help you make a start.