Addiction Treatment and Hepatitis C
60% Intravenous Opiate Detox Drug Users Hep C say, “I think I’ve got Hep. C”. It is an all-too-common phrase I hear in my addiction medicine practice (West Palm Beach, FL). As a matter of fact, I would estimate our patients (60% Intravenous Opiate Detox Drug Users Hep C) who are intravenous drug users are, in fact, positive for the hepatitis C antibody. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), 2.7–3.9 million people are living with HCV in the United States and, amazingly, deaths from hepatitis C now EXCEED deaths from the HIV/AIDS virus!
This is increasingly common incidence of this disease and its impacting on my patient population as well as the recovery community. We are educating the entire community by discussing symptoms, transmission, diagnosis, and treatment of the hepatitis C virus.
Understanding Hep C and Opiate Addiction Treatment
Hepatitis C is a viral liver disease, currently the most common blood borne infection in the United States. It is much more contagious and transmissible than other similar infectious agents. Hepatitis C infection can be either acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis C is oftentimes without symptoms and patients progress to chronic infection completely unaware of their exposure to the virus.
Therefore, so many patients are surprised when they test positive. Less commonly, symptoms of acute infection may include jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and impressively elevated liver function tests on blood work. After acute exposure to the hepatitis C virus, approximately 75-85% of patients go on to become chronically infected with the virus, and these are the patients for whom treatment is considered.
Detecting Hep C in Opiate Addiction Treatment
Hepatitis C is extremely contagious and spreads primarily through blood exposure. This includes our patients who suffer from the disease of addiction and who share needles, spoons, cotton, water, or any other injection equipment. It also includes, those who share other drug paraphernalia such as snorting straws, with a person who has hepatitis C. Sexual transmission is also possible, but thought to be unusual.
Opiate Detox Drug Users Hep C
The importance of diagnosing and treating chronic hepatitis C is to hopefully avoid the two most important risks of the disease; cirrhosis/liver failure, and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). The diagnosis of hepatitis C is made from bloodwork performed on a patient. Screening bloodwork to test for hepatitis C detects the body’s immune system’s response to the virus. It is the hepatitis C antibody that is first detected when somebody “tests positive” for hepatitis C. The test will confirm the fact that the patient’s body has “seen” the hepatitis C virus at some point in the past. The next step is to perform a hepatitis C viral load and genotype test.
A positive viral load confirms the actual presence of hepatitis C virus in the patient’s blood. This quantifies how much virus is present. While the genotype tells us what type of hepatitis C infection we are dealing with (six main types), and this is important for determining the most effective treatment regimen. It is important to note that most patients whose immune systems naturally “clear” the acute hepatitis C viral infection on their own (15 and 25% of patients) do so within the first six months of infection.
Therefore, physicians will monitor viral loads at six months following first detection to give patients a chance to clear the infection on their own. If at six months there is still a positive viral load (active infection), treatment is considered. Again, approximately 75-85% of people will go on to develop chronic infection and will need to consider treatment.
New Hep C Treatment with 90% Success Rates
To date there are several newer oral medications for Opiate Detox Drug Users Hep C, alone and in combination products. The choice of medication depends in part on the genotype of the hepatitis C infection, but the specific details and exact medications are beyond the scope of this article.
Suffice to say, the general advantages of these drugs when compared to older interferon-based regimens include significantly fewer side effects and cure rates well over 90%- very impressive results! However, one of the primary barriers to these newer hepatitis C treatment regimens is the exorbitant price tag and the cumbersome task of getting insurance companies to pay for the treatment.
Opiate Detox Drug Users Hep C Insurance and Tests
Insurance companies in general require a large battery of tests and information be compiled before they will cover the cost of hepatitis C treatment. These tests include various blood and urine tests as well as imaging studies and “staging” of the hepatitis C infection (how much damage has been done to the liver).
This staging has traditionally been accomplished by liver biopsy (obviously an invasive and less than desirable procedure). However, a new technology exists called Fibroscan. We are seeing, insurance companies covering in most cases, all of the costs.
Fibroscan Painless Test Saving Lives from Hep C
Fibroscan is a painless, non-invasive test that simply measures the elasticity of the liver. This elasticity tells us how much damage has been done to the liver and is sufficient for “staging” the patient’s liver disease. Fibroscan is an amazing technology that makes invasive biopsy unnecessary in most cases and gives insurers the information they need to pay for these incredible new treatments for hepatitis C!
Helping Opiate Detox Drug Users Hep C
Currently there are very few Fibroscan machines in West Palm Beach area. Many insurers require a Fibroscan diagnostic test to approve treatment coverage. We are seeing insurance companies covering in most cases, all of the costs. The limitation of this test is making it very difficult for our chronic hepatitis C patients in the recovery community to access treatment for their hepatitis C.
Whole-Health is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment practice focused on the comprehensive medical care of our recovery community. Since we have with many patients in the recovery in the West Palm Beach area, it was determined that we really can greatly increase access to hepatitis C treatment. Therefore, Whole-Health has purchased a Fibroscan machine in our effort to better serve the medical needs of our recovery community.
Opiate Detox West Palm, and Drug and Alcohol Treatment West Palm
Now, instead of inconvenient specialist referrals and dealing with transportation issues, our recovery patients with hepatitis C can be evaluated and treated at our office here in Delray Beach, Fl. We have been providing opiate detox West Palm, and unequalled drug and alcohol addiction treatment West Palm for well over a decade.
We are very proud to add this additional service to our practice. It is just another example of how Whole Health is the premiere leader in comprehensive medical care in the practice of addiction treatment medicine! We encourage all our at-risk patients to come in to be screened for hepatitis C.
We also hope that patients with known hepatitis C will visit our opiate addiction practice in the West Palm Beach area (855) 965-1626, so we can coordinate testing, assist with insurance requirements, and start these amazing new treatments to help eliminate this virus from our recovery community!
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You may also be interested in some of our other articles on addiction treatment; “Unchecked Addiction Treatment Diseases“, “What Does (MAT) Medication Assisted Therapy Mean for Generation Z?“, and “Narcan Education by Opiate Detox West Palm Doctor“.