Hep C has a close connection to intravenous opiate addiction. At Whole Health in West Palm Beach, FL about 60% of our addiction treatment clients have Hep C. Most IV drug abusers have very little understanding of what else they are injecting into themselves besides their chosen drug. Bacteria, fungus, viral contaminants, chemicals and even heavy metals can and usually do enter the bloodstream each time a drug is injected. In addiction, many diseases are left unchecked.
Genetics Contributes to Addiction
Sadly, genetics account for 50% of addiction with no other disease carrying a percentage even close to that. (ASAM 2011). A history of trauma and stress are other common risk factors.
Addiction usually starts in adolescence. In a study published by Dr Ruth Potee, MD, a person trying an illicit substance under the age of 21 is 60 to 70% more likely to have a lifelong addiction than a person who tries a substance over age 21, which carries a lifelong addiction risk of only 6 to 8 %. Clearly the adolescent brain is still myelinating and modifying making it highly susceptible to drugs of abuse and concurrent addiction.
Drug abuse carries health risks that are likely just as harmful as the drugs themselves.
Most people who abuse drugs, adolescents in particular, are familiar with the physical harm that the drug may cause but lack the understanding of the many infectious diseases, including Hep C, they are introducing to their body.
Drug Addiction and Infectious Diseases Including Hep C
The most common transmitted infectious diseases seen in addiction are HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C (Hep C), Tuberculosis, Bacteremia/Sepsis (blood infection) and Endocarditis (heart valve infection). There are many more transmitted diseases and with each infection there are cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal and neurologic complications. These infections can be somewhat treatable in some cases and in many other cases lead to death.
Addiction is a disease and causes changes in the brain that control personality and decision making, most addicts engage in high risk behaviors and actions, like using contaminated needles and having unprotected sex. The risk of contracting Hep C from using a contaminated needle just one time can be as high as 70% (CDC.gov-Hepatitis C). Hepatitis C destroys healthy liver cells that are necessary for metabolism and the release of enzymes necessary for protein synthesis, cell function and detoxification of wastes in the body. Persons with chronic Hepatitis C often have other long term complications and can eventually become comatose or die.
Addiction and TB
TB identification and treatment in the addict can be challenging for diagnosis and control. Tuberculosis (TB) is on the rise in almost every state due to the increasing number of diagnosed addicts and has become even epidemic in some places. The symptoms of TB are night sweats, painful coughing and fevers. It is transmitted easily by droplets from coughing or sneezing. The illness can be easily spread by one person to 10 to 20 people without even knowing it. TB affects the lungs and causes shortness of breath and pain and will often times lead to death if left untreated.
Many IV addicts introduce harmful contaminates directly into the bloodstream within seconds. These bacteria can seed heart valves and cause heart infections in addition to overwhelming blood infections leading to shock and death.
Case Study on Addiction Disease Hep C
The following case exemplifies this risk and is an actual recent incident which I observed come through the emergency department at a local hospital in West Palm Beach, FL:
Mr. Doe is an 18 y/o male that began using IV heroin after he sustained a car accident that caused him to be in a cast for several months. He was initially prescribed Percocet for pain. When he ran out of the prescription opiate, he described feeling like he had a severe case of the flu and began searching for more of the drug. He had strong enough cravings that when he could no longer afford to buy the opiate from the street, he began to use IV heroin.
Hep C Very Common with IV Drug Users
Several months later, Mr. Doe overdosed and was taken to the Emergency Room. After his resuscitation, lab tests revealed high liver function enzymes, and a high viral load of Hep C. He was also diagnosed with a rare bacterial blood infection that required him to remain hospitalized for high dose IV antibiotic therapy for several weeks. Mr. Doe ended up with a fortunate outcome, but this is certainly not always the case.
Get Tested for Infectious Diseases
Drug addiction is a national epidemic, as a result, infectious disease, overdose, and death in this high risk population are also reaching an epidemic levels in some areas. Prevention is key to protecting adolescents against drug addiction, and comes from taking a proactive approach by providing grounded educational programs. With knowledge comes prevention, and with prevention comes, protection from addiction, infection, disease and death.
Whole Health has a new hepatitis C test that is has been covered by many insurance companies. We can evaluate you and provide treatment at our Delray Beach, Fl., office. We are extremely qualified and experienced (10 years) to provide opiate detox West Palm, and unequalled drug and alcohol addiction treatment West Palm. Give us a call at 855-965-1626 to get tested today.
Dr. Candace Teruel, DNP
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