Hepatitis C is a virus (HCV) that attacks the liver. The infection can range from mild, where carriers are asymptomatic, to aggressive and fatal.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discusses, hepatitis C is mainly spread through direct blood contact. While it is important to note that anyone can contract hepatitis C, drug abusers are at a heightened risk.
The State of the Problem
According to HealthDay, sharing drug paraphernalia presents a major risk. Heroin and cocaine users may be sharing potentially more than syringes and straws; trace amounts of blood left in these implements can be sufficient to transmit hepatitis C. Further, young users may be particularly prone to paraphernalia sharing and less educated about transmission risks, which increases the potential for hepatitis C exposure in this demographic.
There is also concern about older carriers. NPR, covering the topic of hepatitis C, notes that baby boomers (Americans born between 1945 and 1965) are particularly at risk for being infected with this virus because of sharing drug needles in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, compared to the general population, baby boomers are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C. As the disease may not leave a visible mark, there may be many carriers – baby boomers and otherwise – who are unaware that they are infected.
The Common Sense for Drug Policy group provides statistical information on the prevalence of hepatitis C. According to the group, in 2012:
- Forty-one states provided 1,778 reports to the CDC of acute hepatitis C infection among residents.
- Of 1,050 reports (out of the 1,778 state reports), 513 (75 percent) reported injectable drug use, which supports that this behavior is the number one cause of hepatitis C transmission.
- Overall, for every 100,000 Americans, there were 0.6 cases of hepatitis C compared to 0.3 cases per every 100,000 from 2006 to 2010.
- Hepatitis C presents a global health crisis. Approximately 150 million people worldwide face chronic hepatitis C, and at least 350,000 people die annually from liver disorders related to the virus.
Most often, thoughts about drug abuse center on the most immediate hazards, such as the effects of intoxication and family conflict; however, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases are incredibly harmful. For this reason, treating drug abuse also has the effect of preventing or managing infectious diseases like hepatitis C.
How to Help
Persons who are actively using drugs are best advised to be screened for hepatitis C and other diseases, but that’s only a small part of the battle. According to HCV Advocate, drug abusers who are infected with hepatitis C may present numerous treatment challenges. Firstly, a full diagnosis of hepatitis, including its level of acuity, may require several doctors’ visits, which a person who is suffering from drug addiction, and possibly a co-occurring mental disorder, may find too burdensome. Getting treatment for hepatitis C while enrolled in a structured drug recovery program can ease the process.
According to Dr.Diana Sylvestre, addiction treatment professionals, working in conjunction with a qualified doctor, can play an instrumental role in the recovery process. A rehab program can promote the success of hepatitis C treatment by:
- Stabilizing the recovering person’s health
- Promoting a healthy lifestyle
- Providing access to doctors
- Monitoring side effects
- Offering support and encouragement
At Black Bear Lodge, we believe education about addiction and the consequences of addiction can empower the recovery process. Our staff has decades of experience providing individualized treatment plans to those in recovery. During intake, an intake coordinator will inquire about any known diseases and make the necessary referrals for diagnostic screenings as necessary. We take a holistic approach to drug recovery and focus on the total needs of each patient, not just the addiction issue. Call us today to learn more.