Alone, It’s Interesting. With Context…

It is absolutely horrifying.

I came across this picture on IFLScience. It was in the thumbnail of the article, and I thought to myself… hmmm. That’s an interesting picture. It’s clearly an X-ray of an adult’s head. But… what’s that extra stuff? An artefact? Something from an item of clothing that he or she had not removed before taking the X-ray?

The image I am referring to is this one.

Which was then followed by this one.

You see it, right? There is something off about this X-ray.

So, what is this image really of? Do you really want to know?


These X-rays are of a heroin addict.

Think on that.

Which of course means, that those thin strips around his neck… are needles that have broken off in his neck over the years.

Holy. Fucking. Crap.

The sheer desperation, the control that such an addiction has over one’s brain to drive a person to keep injecting themselves after reducing them to this state, I find that to be both staggering and humbling.

I have only the deepest respect for those who manage to recover after such an addiction.

Unfortunately, little is known about the patient whose X-ray this is. It was shared anonymously, and that is just as well, as all patients deserve their privacy. I don’t know what happened to him, if he ever recovered or succumbed to his addiction. One way or another, it is definitely a sobering reminder of how bad heroin addiction can get.


  1. kestrel says

    Gosh… I hate to be a stick-in-the-mud here… but no. Look at the first X-ray, at the bottom of the image on the left: the patient has a wire around their clavicle. Then look in the second image: it’s gone. First of all, this can not be the same patient. Next, the Partner, who is sitting right next to me, works in the ER at a hospital and has done so for many, many years, and has tons of experience in this type of thing, and says no, these are not broken off needles, he has seen that before and knows what it looks like. Perhaps something wrapped around the neck, but not needles… he did once have a patient that had ONE needle broken off, in the forearm not the neck, but he successfully removed it. He says it looked nothing like what you see in the images. Also apparently this is not the typical place for an addict to shoot up, it would be a rare thing to see an addict who does this. Finally, the original doctor who posted this has deleted his account.

    I’m sorry but the images all add up to a “Nope” for me. I think your point though, that addiction is a very bad thing indeed, is an excellent point.

  2. says

    I’m also a bit skeptical. I use hypodermic needles to transfer dyes and to inject glue – I use them pretty roughly and those needles are tough. They don’t snap off easily in someone.

    When I had my wisdom teeth extracted in 1989, I had an “adverse reaction” to the general anaesthesia and tried to escape; I ripped my drip out of my arm sideways – the needle didn’t break, the skin tore – I had a huge hematoma the next day. I’m just saying: needles are TOUGH.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      It is true that needles are tough, but the breaking off of needles in IV drug users is, unfornuately, quite common and not the part of the story that makes it unlikely. Repeated injections causes not just the veins to collapse, but also creates a lot of scar tissue and thus hardening in the areas. The original posts links to a study which found numerous IV drug users reporting having a needle break off while injecting, and in some cases never recovering them. The breaking of the needle isn’t what is unusual, it is the sheer number of them.

      If you ever watched the docuseries on Netflix Drungs Inc, and watch that poor woman trying and failing to inject herself after 45 minutes, you’ll see what I mean.

  3. polishsalami says

    I think this is plausible. If this person had done a lot of jail time, for instance, then they might have built up a lot of muscle in this area.

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