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Drug Users: At Risk of Hepatitis

Hepatitis caused by drug use is an all too common phenomenon.

Hepatitis is a liver disease caused by different Hepatitis viruses.

Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are bloodborne diseases, and anyone who injects drugs is at risk for one of the strains of hepatitis because of the link between addiction and hepatitis.

It is very important to never share needles if you are using them to inject drugs.

Not sharing needles and getting regular testing is the best way to avoid Hepatitis.

There is an emerging epidemic of young people suffering from hepatitis C in the United States.

What is Hepatitis C?

Although some people experience a short-term infection of hepatitis C, the majority of people are not able to clear the virus without significant treatment.

If you are able to clear the virus without treatment, it will most likely happen within the first six months.

Unfortunately, 80% of people who get infected with hepatitis develop a chronic infection.

Hepatitis risks are increased with drug use, and the disease can cause liver damage, including cancer, and liver failure.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of hunger
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Grey stool
  • Joint pain
  • Yellow skin and eyes

The most common symptom of Hepatitis C is actually presenting no symptoms at all.

This is dangerous because it means many infected people are not aware that they have the disease.

If any symptoms occur with an acute infection, they will most likely appear within the first two weeks.

Hepatitis And Drug Use: How It Spreads

Drug use allows the hepatitis virus to spread quickly. It can be spread if you come into contact with an infected bodily fluid. Typically this is blood, but the disease can also live on dry surfaces for up to 6 weeks. This means that if you share a needle with someone who has hepatitis, the infection can be transferred to you.
The most common ways to get hepatitis include:

  • Sharing needles and syringes: Even syringes with detachable needles are risky.
  • Preparation equipment: Whether this is cotton, alcohol swabs, ties, or even drug water, you can easily transfer hepatitis to another person through sharing these materials.
  • Blood on fingers: Even if your fingers come into contact with blood that is infected, you can get hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis lives on surfaces as well.

The Relationship Between Viral Hepatitis And Drug Use

Drug and alcohol use puts drug abusers at increased risk for viral hepatitis. This is often because those who are addicted to substances may engage in risky sexual behavior as well as other risky behavior, such as sharing needles.
Any person with hepatitis who injects drugs will infect 20 other individuals on average. Because of this rapid transmission rate, the disease is extremely dangerous for drug users.

Preventing Hepatitis

The best way to prevent hepatitis C is to stop injecting drugs. Additionally, there are other drug treatments that can lower your risk for hepatitis. These include prescription methadone or buprenorphine that do not require injection.
If you cannot stop injecting drugs, there are still ways to protect yourself, including:

  1. Do not share any equipment used to inject drugs.
  2.  Always use new and sterile needles, as well as sterile syringes and preparation equipment.
  3. Set up a clean space before you inject.
  4. Do not split drugs with equipment that has already been used.
  5. Do not use syringes with detachable needles.
  6. Always properly wash hands with soap and water before and after injecting.
  7. Clean the injection site before injecting.
  8.  Apply pressure to the injection site afterward.
  9.  Do not let anyone else inject you.

Mental Illness and Drug Use

When someone suffers from mental illness along with drug use, it is called a dual diagnosis. The fact of the matter is that these diseases occur frequently. It has been proven that around 50% of individuals that have a substance abuse disorder also have a mental health disorder. When these two conditions occur at the same time, it can worsen both diseases and make recovery difficult.

Why Does Dual Diagnosis Occur?

Because addiction and mental health issues are often found to occur together, many people believe that one causes the other. This is simply not true. Even if one issue appears before the other, it does not mean that there is a direct causal relationship between the two. These factors all affect dual diagnoses:

  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Change in brain chemistry during addiction

Examples of Dual Diagnosis

There are several common dual diagnoses that occur along with hepatitis and drug use, including anxiety and PTSD.

Drug Use And Anxiety

Because anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in the country, it often can be the catalyst for drug use if someone is looking to self-medicate. There are many forms of anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, phobias, and even OCD. Symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Racing thoughts
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of concentration

Opioids and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, can develop after you experience a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a terrorist attack, the death or loss of someone you love, sexual or physical abuse, and many other situations.
Many people are affected by PTSD, but most do not get the treatment they deserve. Sometimes this leads to drug abuse as sufferers seek to self-medicate.
Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Being on edge
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks
  • Unwanted thoughts

Treatment For Hepatitis And Drug Use

The good news is that hepatitis can be treated, and the earlier, the better. Treatments often come in the form of pills. You will need to see a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.
When it comes to hepatitis and drug use, the best option is to seek complete treatment for your drug addiction. There are many options for drug addiction treatment.

Principles of Effective Treatment

There are a few key principles that form any effective drug treatment program:

  • Addiction must be treated as a complex and treatable disease.
  • Addiction affects brain function as well as behavior.
  • There are many different forms of treatment, one treatment does not fit all.
  • Treatment needs to be accessible.
  • Emotions, as well as drug use, must be assessed.
  • Counseling and behavioral therapy are proven to work and the most common forms of treatment.
  • Medication-assisted treatment is helpful but must be combined with behavioral therapies.
  • Treatment plans must be modified and reviewed often to change to a patient’s needs.
  • Treatment should address any other dual diagnosis.
  • Detoxification is always the first step of treatment when necessary.
  • Treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary, but it is helpful when it is.
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored to avoid dependence.
  • Treatment programs should always test patients for different viruses such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases.

It’s Time To Get Healthy

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis and drug use, then you may be considering getting help.

Contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health to learn more about our programs, as well as our free insurance verification for treatment.

We can help you get healthy and start on a new path of recovery today.

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