The dangers of injecting intravenous recreational drugs are well known. But just in case that old mantra of “don’t do drugs, stay in school” has faded away, a grisly reminder has been doing the rounds online lately.
The images were originally shared on Reddit r/Medicine four years ago by an anonymous doctor. According to their full post, the patient arrived at the hospital with severe pneumonia. The patient, a long-term intravenous heroin user, underwent an initial chest X-ray (below) that revealed dozens of broken needles in his neck. Radiologists then ran some 3D reconstructions (below) of the area.
The doctor believes that when the patient injected heroin into his neck, he would pass out and the needles would break off. The man eventually managed to leave the hospital.
The legitimacy of this backstory is difficult to verify, especially as the original poster has since deleted their account, but similar stories have been seen before in medical journals. An article featured in UBM Patient Care explains how soft tissue radiographs showed a patient’s neck with at least 17 broken needle tips from injecting heroin for 30 years.
“Broken needles in injection drug users are not uncommon,” says the article. “One study reported that up to 20 percent of injection drug users had experienced a needle breaking while injecting.”
A separate article presented in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine even documented medical imagery of a needle that was stuck in a 46-year-old’s neck after receiving acupuncture therapy for whiplash.