Cutaneous Complications of Intravenous Drug Abuse

P. Del Giudice


The British Journal of Dermatology. 2004;150(1) 

In This Article

Hypersensitivity Reactions

Opiates can cause itching because of histamine release. The pruritus starts almost immediately after heroin injection and can last 10 min to 24 h.[3] Although various hypersensitivity reactions have been reported, they remain surprisingly rare given the number and variety of adulterants and drugs. Urticaria was reported in 4% of addicts by Weidman and Fellner[3] following heroin injection. Urticaria started about an hour after injection and lasted for several hours to days.[4] Severe angio-oedema and urticaria with bronchospasm have been reported.[99] A serum sickness-like reaction with amphetamine,[3] rare morbilliform and fixed drug eruptions with heroin and a case of Lyell's syndrome with heroin have been reported.[4,9,100] The various adulterants are likely to be responsible for most of these reactions.

A few cases of leucocytoclastic vasculitis have been reported but it is unclear whether the vasculitis was linked to the drug or to other factors such as cryoglobulinaemia and viral infections.[4,9,101,102]


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