East African Heroin Addicts Are Injecting the Blood of Other Heroin Addicts to Share a High
Like a perfect storm to transmit HIV/AIDS infection, heroin addicts in the East African are injecting each others blood as a way to share the high of a dose of injected heroin.
University of Texas researchers who studied the practice, known as flashblood, have been documented its occurrence in Tanzania, Kenya and Zanzabar.
They say that amongst the subjects that studied, commonly sex workers, someone who had made enough money for a bag of heroin would offer flashblood, as a kindness against heroin withdrawal symptoms, to a friend who had not earned sufficiently.
After injecting heroin into a vein, a user typically draws blood back into the syringe and re-injects, sometimes 3 or 4 times, to ensure that all of the heroin in the syringe is moved into the body. When offering a flashback, the user will inject and then draw blood back into the syringe only once, and then offer this blood to another addict.
Although experts say that a teaspoon or so of blood seems like an insufficient amount to transfer a heroin high, the researchers say that women offered a flashback would react after injection similarly to those who had taken an injection of straight heroin (passing out) – possibly a result of small quantities of heroin that remain in the syringe, as well as from the heroin in the blood.
HIV/ADIS infection rates in East African countries range from 3% to 8%, much lower than the 15% to 25% seen in southern Africa, however, since flashback in East Africa seems practiced mostly by women, many of whom work in the sex industry, the possibility of increased infections rates are worrisome. Nora Volkof, Director of the National Institute on Drug Addiction commented, saying, “Injecting yourself with fresh blood is a crazy practice — it’s the most effective way of infecting yourself with H.I.V…Even though the number who do it is a relatively small group, they are vectors for H.I.V. because they support themselves by sex work.”
In Tanzania, 64% of female heroin addicts are HIV positive. Many of these women work in the sex industry to support their heroin habits. Heroin in East Africa comes directly from manufacturing countries like Afghanistan making it relativity cheap and very potent.
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