The Opioid Epidemic and Hepatitis C Infections: What’s the Connection?
The bloodborne hepatitis C virus can cause a disease called hep C. Hep C can go undetected for years or even decades and can cause serious health consequences.
If you engage in behaviors that put you at risk of contracting the hep C, you should get tested and treated.
People who use drugs can come into contact with someone who has the disease. There is a link between hep C and the increased use of drugs.
The current health crisis is related to the increase in addiction to the opiate. It can affect people who use prescription and nonprescription drugs.
U.S. data from 2019 showed that 10.1 million people misused prescription opioids in a calendar year, 1.6 million people had an opioid use disorder, and 745,000 had used heroin.
Opioid misuse has caused thousands of deaths each year. In 2019, 48,006 people using synthetic opioids died, and 14,480 died from using heroin. The United States declared the epidemic a public health emergency in 2017.
There are other public health outcomes of the epidemic. The rates of hep C have increased.
“Someone who is positive for the disease is passed on to others. The most common way hep C is passed in the United States is through shared needles and injection drug equipment, and it’s not uncommon for people who use opioids to do it.”
It can be passed on among those who share equipment for drugs, since the disease can live on objects for up to 6 weeks.
- There are needles and syringes.
- Equipment used for preparation.
- The hands and fingers are touching.
- There are surfaces that come into contact with blood.
Hep C rates in the United States
The largest group impacted by rising hep C rates are those in their 20s and 30s, and many live in areas with higher levels of opiate use.
Additionally, the number of pregnant women with HCV became
Hep C can cause serious damage to your body. You may develop or increase your risk for developing diseases like cirrhosis, cancer, or failure of the liver.
Since 2013, hep C-related deaths in the United States have surpassed 60 other infectious diseases combined, including HIV.
Treatments that cure a large percentage of infections are available. It is best to discuss treatment with your doctor when you are diagnosed.
It is important to get tested for hep C because some cases have no symptoms. A blood test can confirm the presence of the disease.
The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 18 be tested for hep C, and you should get a blood test if you’re an adult or are pregnant. If you use injectable drugs, you should get tested for hep C more frequently.
“Hep C treatment involves drugs. Follow-up doctor appointments and laboratory tests are important to stick to the treatment regimen. Doctors will monitor the baby and parent during the pregnancy, even though pregnant people can’t be treated for hep C.”
You can get the virus again in the future if it passes through the body.
There are ways to prevent contracting the disease.
- “Don’t touch with blood.”
- If you can form a plan to quit, you should seek help for injection drug use.
- Every time, use new injection equipment.
- Do not share equipment.
- Before and after injections, you should clean your hands and injected area with alcohol and water.
- Apply pressure to the injection site to stop bleeding or use a bandage to cover it.
There are resources in your area that can provide sterile injection equipment, testing, and financial assistance for treatment.
Injectionable drug use and the disease are related. If you use drugs, it is best to get tested regularly for hep C. You can get hep C more than once, but injecting safely will help you avoid future infections.
People who are pregnant should be tested for hep C.
You can cure most of the cases of hep C with medication, and prevent further damage to your liver.