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Consequences of Drug Use: Hepatitis

Hepatitis: Enemy of your Liver

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver (2013). It can be caused by toxins (drugs, alcohol), autoimmune conditions, or pathogens (viruses, bacteria) (NIDA, 2013). According to NIDA, approximately 2.7-3.9 million people in the United States have Hepatitis C.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that Hepatitis C is spread when a person comes into contact with “surfaces, equipment, or objects” that are contaminated with infected blood (2015). The Hepatitis C virus can live on a surface for three weeks! In addition to needles and syringes, people who inject drugs can get Hepatitis C from preparation equipment (cookers, cottons, water, ties), fingers, and other surfaces. In addition, people can contract Hepatitis C from infected tattoo, piercing, or cutting equipment, and can be spread through sex (CDC, 2015).

Hepatitis: Physical Risks

Hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis of the liver as well as certain liver cancers. According to the CDC, symptoms of Hepatitis C can include:

“…fever, feeling tired, not wanting to eat, upset stomach, throwing up, dark urine, grey-colored stool, joint pain, and yellow skin and eyes. However, many people who get Hepatitis C do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. If symptoms occur with acute infection, they can appear anytime from 2 weeks to 6 months after infection. Symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C can take decades to develop, and when symptoms do appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease” (2015).

The CDC recommends that anyone who has injected drugs be tested for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis: Prevention

It is recommended that people who inject drugs always use sterile equipment, clean surfaces before putting their injection equipment down, don’t share drug solution, avoid using syringes with detachable needles, thoroughly wash hands before and after injection, clean injection site prior to using, and don’t inject another person (CDC, 2015).

For more information, please see:

Centers for Disease Control info on Hep C– https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/
Harm Reduction Coalition, Arizona– http://harmreduction.org/connect-locally/arizona/

References:
Centers for Disease Control, 2015. Hepatitis C & injection drug use. Accessed January 17, 2017 at: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/pdfs/factsheet-pwid-bw.pdf 

National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2013. Viral hepatitis—A very real consequence of substance use. Accessed January 17, 2017 at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/viral-hepatitis-very-real-consequence-substance-use