John Kingsley (name changed), a 36-year-old, former welder at a well-known San Diego shipyard, is in the midst of two difficult battles of his life. He was laid off on disciplinary grounds, owing to his addiction to prescription drugs, some time back. Soon he started experiencing health problems and had to go in for a checkup. Sitting in the waiting lounge of a hepatitis C screening program, at a behavioral health center in downtown San Francisco, he felt as if his heart had stopped beating as he saw his worst fear coming true. The results from the medical reports were out; he had tested positive for the blood-borne virus, which was lying dormant in him, all these years when he was an active intravenous drug user.
Sadly, there are millions such as John across the U.S. It is unfortunate that once considered as a baby boomer disease, hepatitis C is soon becoming one of the fastest spreading viral infections among young drug users nationwide, with the majority of them being unaware of the infection. According to the findings of a national study conducted by a team from Rutgers Biomedical and Sciences, Rutgers University, New Jersey, published in March 2017, better hepatitis C screening and treatment facilities across the country can go a long way in preventing about 90,000 fatalities by 2030. In fact, the study committee also noted that the disease kills more individual than road accidents, diabetes and even HIV.
Experts say that the blood-borne hepatitis C virus is generally spread through the intravenous use of drugs, especially among heroin and prescription drug users, who share needles. Though a few symptoms of the viral infection may manifest quite early, the dangerous warning signs may continue to be dormant for decades. If the patient is not treated, he or she could be exposed to the risk of developing cancer or scarring of the liver including complete failure of the organ, resulting in death. The latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that new cases of hepatitis C infections in America have increased by 294 percent during the years 2010-15, especially among young adults in the age group of 20-29 years, who inject drugs. However, the CDC believes that the actual figures could be much higher as symptoms of the infection are comparatively less known and most newly infected cases generally go undiagnosed.
Additionally, a new report from Amino, a technology-based health care solutions company that helps patients find doctors, indicates that Americans battling an addiction to opioids are highly susceptible to hepatitis C infections, back pain and alcoholism. The company revealed this finding after a meticulous examination of insurance claims, filed between 2014 and 2016, of more than 300 million patients with private health insurances.
Awareness is key to a healthy life
Spreading awareness about the nature of hepatitis C among drug users and the general public at large is the only way to save lives. It is important to educate people about this current trend in viral infections, especially among the youth and promoting proactive screening for the disease. Thanks to innovations in medical sciences, several new classes of effective drugs and direct-acting antivirals are now available in the market to treat infected individuals.
Experts have identified five basic types of barriers to treating hepatitis C cases, namely:
- Restricted insurance cover
- Inability to afford treatment
- Failure to deal with an underlying addiction
- Challenges in communication
- Faulty perception of the disease in patients
While sharing used syringes is the most common mode through which the virus is transmitted, there is also a huge possibility of catching the infection by engaging in unprotected sex or using something, which is contaminated with blood infected by the virus, such as a razor or a toothbrush. Further, pregnant mothers can also pass on the virus to their unborn babies. Therefore, this World Hepatitis Day, which is on July 28, 2017, it is incumbent on the global community to ensure that the disease is eradicated in the next 13 years. Health care organizations nationwide are placing greater emphasis on awareness, diagnosis and key preventive actions such as vaccinations, harm reduction and treatments to ensure a healthier society. However, it should be noted that treating an underlying addiction in any form can be the first step to combat the viral infection.
Seeking treatment is the first step
It is sad to note that innumerable vulnerable individuals are increasingly getting caught in the vicious cycle of addiction. The sole option to break free from the stronghold of lethal substances is to seek professional treatment for addiction to opioids at a reputed drug addiction rehabilitation center to reverse the devastating effects of the deadly drugs.
Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of harmful substances despite the negative impact on his or her life. The customized addiction treatment services, at Sovereign Health of San Clemente, are designed to treat the person holistically.
If you or your loved one is battling an addiction to any prescription drug, call our 24/7 helpline number to know about the most effective drug addiction programs at our state-of-the-art centers. You can even chat online to one of our representatives for further assistance.