Why some drug users turn to shooting water into their veins

Local News

Most people squirm at the thought of injecting a drug into their veins.

But heroin, meth or cocaine addiction doesn’t start out that way. People typically begin smoking or ingesting drugs. But as their dependence increases, they seek a stronger, faster high and find it with needles. 

In “Jessica’s Journey,” we looked into how gastric bypass surgery set Jessica Pfau up for a cross addiction. She went from food to painkillers to alcohol.

Eventually Jessica started shooting up heroin.

She told us about something that happens to intravenous drug users that you’ve probably never heard of before.

In some cases the addiction isn’t just to the chemical, it’s also to the needle.

Jessica Pfau believes her addictive tendencies are rooted in childhood trauma.

After years of being addicted to food, Jessica underwent gastric bypass and then got hooked on the painkillers after surgery.

When she could no longer get opioid pills, she switched to alcohol.

While she was being monitored for alcohol by the courts, she went back to opioids, eventually shooting up with heroin.

It gets really old. But for some reason at the time, when you don’t have the right resources and you’re not in the right mind frame and you haven’t been taught how to cope with different things, it doesn’t matter you still don’t think of all the consequences, you just think of the drug,” Pfau said.

Jessica has been through several treatments; none of them stuck. Still she didn’t want to go back to the drugs.

Pfau: I was not using drugs, but I was shooting up water.
Kennecke: What?
Pfau: That needle addiction is almost as bad as the drug addiction sometimes.”

“It could potentially be some sort of behavioral addiction that that person has in addition to the chemical addiction,” Malia Holbeck, Manager of Avera Addiction Recovery Programs, said.

“You get almost a rush too, when you use a syringe and you see your blood pull back in you vein. It’s almost like a rush in itself. I don’ know how else to explain it,” Pfau said.

“You’re still participating in that addictive behavior. So I think it would be similar to the concept of a dry drunk. They’re really just doing all the same things that incorporate with that addiction piece, they’re only just removed that chemical from the whole situation,” Holbeck said.

Previous obsessive traits can set someone up for the compulsive behavior.

“It’s kind of been that way with everything–if I like it and I’m interested; I don’t stop,” Phau said.

“They’re using that — injecting water — as a coping skill to manage stress and life situations,” Holbeck said. 

Using needles in this way isn’t safe and puts people at risk for diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Thursday night Pfau tells us what led up to her near fatal overdose.

She had no idea the drug she used was laced with fentanyl. 

Plus, we follow her as she turns herself in to serve her prison sentence.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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