Opioid Epidemic Leads to More Hepatitis C Cases
October 11, 2017
The opioid epidemic is ruining lives in so many ways. Families, marriages, friendships and careers are being destroyed every day as the crippling effects of addiction spreads like wildfire. Experts warn there are even more reasons to stop using – the increased risk of contracting Hepatitis C.
What is Hepatitis C?
More Americans die from Hepatitis C (HCV) than any other infectious disease. It is a virus that that infects the liver and untreated can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. Because it can be transmitted through shared needles, drug users are at high risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Many that begin with an addiction to opioids turn to illegal street drugs like heroin because it’s more accessible and much cheaper. Approximately 2.7–3.9 million people are living with HCV in the United States.
New Cases of Hepatitis C Triple
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of new HCV infections has nearly tripled in five years (2010 – 2015) and have the highest levels in 15-year high. Because the virus has few symptoms and nearly half of infected people don’t even know they have it, the reported numbers– 850 cases in 2010 and 2436 in 2015 – may not reflect the reality of the situation. The CDC believes new cases in 2015 were actually closer to 34,000. New cases are growing most rapidly among the age ranges 20-29, which the CDC links to injection drug use associated with the opioid epidemic.
Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention said, “We must reach the hardest-hit communities with a range of prevention and treatment services that can diagnose people with hepatitis C and link them to treatment. This wide range of services can also prevent the misuse of prescription drugs and ultimately stop drug use – which can also prevent others from getting hepatitis C in the first place.”
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is addressing the opioid epidemic in number of ways. They are working to improve education about the epidemic and ensure better access to treatment and recovery services. HHS is also supporting research on pain and addiction and finding better practices for pain management.