On the most basic level, there are three major differences from one needle to the next: 1) gauge, or essentially how wide the needle is, 2) length, how long the needle is, and 3) body size, or how much of the substance it can hold. The latter two are pretty self-explanatory, but the first is slightly counterintuitive - the BIGGER the gauge number the SMALLER the size of the needle. So a 27 gauge needle is 1/27th of an inch, while an 18 gauge needle is 1/18th of an inch (aka much bigger). Kaput?
Then we have the tips that are separate from the bodies, all of which fit on the same body. We have blueheads (25 gauge, 1 inch long, they're blue! Surprise, surprise), apples (23 gauge, 1 inch long, they're bluish-green, perhaps like a granny smith apple?), and then groins (21 gauge and 1.5 inches long, important for their purpose). All three are used to inject into veins, but as the needles get bigger, they get more intrusive into the body. In particular, the groins are usually used to shoot into the groin (surprise, surprise) which can be particularly dangerous, since the vein is buried very deep in the leg and is located close to the femoral artery. It's really easy to miss the femoral vein and accidentally stick something else. Most of the time, people only resort to the bigger tips and the riskier injections sites (groin, neck, in between the toes, etc.) when easy-to-reach veins in the arms and legs have collapsed or are difficult to find.
|From L to R: Diabetics, blueheads, apples, and groins.|
The bodies used for drugs and hormones are also different - purple bodies (drugs) hold less substance, and pink bodies (hormones) are able to hold more. However, the tips have a universal attachment, so any tip can fit on either body. In addition to being larger, pink bodies also come with a massive 18 gauge needle that can be used to draw up the super thick hormones (it is then taken off and a smaller tip is attached for injecting).
|From L to R: Purple body for drugs, pink body for hormones.|
|Clockwise from top left: blueheads, alcohol swabs and bandaids, 23 gauge shoulder/thigh, 23 gauge butt, 21 gauge shoulder/thigh, 21 gauge butt, tourniquet, sterile water, groins, apples.|
|Cottons and cookers (with an alcohol swab)|
So there you have it, the most basic lesson on HIPS' injection supplies, and ones we give out weekly, if not daily. We also have a slew of different - perhaps "specialty?" - needles in our stockroom, but these are our most popular. Get ready for an upcoming post on our safer sex supplies! Finger condoms, anyone?