Heroin is the most common name for an illegal and often more potent form of morphine, a drug used to provide comfort in times of great pain. While forms of morphine can be extremely beneficial to those in need, heroin is extremely addictive and prolonged use often leads to immune suppression and various deadly infections. The hepatitis C virus is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver for which there is no preventative vaccine, and often leads to cirrhosis and even liver failure. According to the World Health Organization it is estimated that between 130 to 170 million people worldwide are living with the virus.
Through their patient admittance records Sovereign Health of California has noticed a dramatic increase in heroin addiction at their drug rehab center. Using their newly created technology enhanced after care monitoring program (T.E.A.M.) Sovereign Health hopes to ensure long term sobriety from opiates and a decrease in the spread of hepatitis C.
Heroin And Hepatitis C
Individually these two public health risks affect millions of people worldwide and cost millions of dollars in public health expenses as well. However, researchers are now finding an even more dangerous link between the two risks. In a 2011 study published recently by the Centers for Disease Control and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, researchers found that the primary cause of hepatitis C infection in Wisconsin was people sharing needles to inject heroin. Since heroin is commonly injected, users often share needles, and therefore infectious diseases with each other, leading to this deadly combination of health risks.
As a combination, heroin use and hepatitis C pose an even greater threat. Since heroin is so commonly injected, hepatitis can spread rapidly among heroin users and since the virus is also sexually transmitted and is transferred to the fetus during pregnancy, this threat could become a wider and long lasting one. Additionally, the disease is complicated by the fact that in about 75 percent of cases, those infected with hepatitis don’t even know that they have the disease since there are usually no apparent symptoms. These circumstances make the possibility of the spread of hepatitis C a serious concern in Wisconsin, and other areas in which heroin use may be epidemic.
According to the Center for Disease Control Hepatitis C is estimated to kill about 15,000 people annually in the U.S. and may cause other living difficulties in countless others. Therefore, the need to stop hepatitis epidemics, especially like the current heroin-related one, is an essential public health task. The dangers of these two health risks independently are enormous and combined they may become epidemic. Like those in Wisconsin and across the country, we at Sovereign Health believe that prevention and education are extremely important to combat epidemics, such as the combination of heroin and hepatitis C. Educating users on the risks of sharing needles and providing treatment for those suffering from substance use, can hopefully be a strong force to combat public health risks like these.