Hepatitis C Infections Triple Due to Opioid Epidemic

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Opioid Epidemic’s Effect on Hepatitis C Infection Rates

Many of us are well aware of the opioid crisis that is gripping the country. New information is constantly being released that shows just how devastating the opioid epidemic is. The CDC reported 2,436 new cases of hep C infections in 2015, but say that they estimate the real number to be around 34,000. Regardless, this amount equates to a rapid increase from 2010 that saw only 850 reported cases.

What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a virus that can remain unnoticed due to the lack of unique symptoms. It only becomes clear that hep C might be behind a person’s health problems when the virus starts to damage the person’s liver. Liver cancer, cirrhosis, and liver failure are common in hepatitis C cases. The spread of the virus is also fueled by the fact that it does not always show symptoms right away.

How is Hepatitis C Connected to the Opioid Epidemic?

Since the opioid epidemic refers to the abuse of prescription pain relievers more than any other drug, how is it linked with the spread of a blood-to-blood disease? Opioids are highly addictive and while it may be easy to find prescriptions initially, as the person’s supply of the substance starts to run dry, many turn to other ways to find their fix.

Heroin is another opioid with the same effect as prescription opioids. When injected, the effects can be more intense as it instantly reaches the brain through the bloodstream. Some opioid pain relievers are also reformulated, making it harder for people to abuse the drug. However, this has caused people to start injecting some of these medications to bypass their abuse-protective qualities.

Addicts often share needles and this is why many blood-to-blood diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C are spreading. The lack of concern about sharing needles is largely due to the effects that an addiction has on a person’s behavior. The bigger the opioid crisis becomes, the more diseases cease to appear in all of the states that see above average drug abuse rates. The CDC states that the best way to avoid blood-borne diseases is to not become involved in activities such as injecting drugs into your system.

What Is Being Done To Stop The Spread?

There are two main concerns that are making it difficult to stop the spread of hepatitis C. Firstly, the medication to treat the disease is expensive, and health insurance does not cover all of the expenses, depending on the state. This results in the access to the medication becoming highly variable. Another issue is that it can be difficult to create a care plan due to the often fragmented interactions with health care providers, especially in addicts who by the nature of addiction, avoid getting help.

The long-term goal of treatment for hep C is the combination of addiction treatment with the virus treatment. Treating just the virus can be futile as it is treating the consequences of a larger problem. This means that treatment for such diseases should be readily available at the rehab centers so that addicts can receive the addiction treatment alongside the virus treatment.

The opioid epidemic continues to evolve as the American people try and find ways to deal with the widespread issues that have surfaced. With the stricter regulations on opioid pain relievers, heroin use has increased and with it, the spread of blood-borne diseases. To get help for yourself or someone you care for, contact Better Addiction Care on (800) 429-7690 to find treatment centers near you.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/health/hepatitis-c-rates-cdc-study/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/index.htm