While sticking a needle in an arm seems drastic, some individuals with drug addictions crave the quicker and more powerful drug high caused by injection. This method of drug abuse has a wide range of associated dangers, including elevated risk of overdose and track marks, but perhaps the most infamous consequence is the risk of spreading diseases such as HIV through needle sharing. Recent events in rural Indiana exemplify this hazard and the importance of combating drug addiction so other states, such as California, do not experience a similar epidemic.
In the spring of 2015, numerous news outlets reported an outbreak of HIV in Indiana consisting of over 100 people diagnosed with the currently incurable disease after sharing needles while abusing opioids. CNN cited this as particularly distressing considering that the infected individuals resided in the Scott and Jackson counties, rural areas with only a few thousand residents. In response, Indiana University and other organizations have sent people and resources to the area for education and treatment of affected citizens.
Dr. Joan Duwve, the chief medical consultant with the Indiana State Department of Health, discussed the multiple components in this particular outbreak. She said that drug abuse in the area was often a “family activity” and a way to fight boredom. Duwve also mentioned Opana (also known as oxymorphone), the particular drug in question. This substance wears off quickly and requires a large needle for injection, raising the chances of transmitting diseases through blood.
Opana is prescribed for chronic pain patients needing around-the-clock treatment. Even when used as directed, individuals can develop an addiction to the substance over time.
The epidemic of addiction and HIV infection in Indiana sparked experts to remind the public of the dangers in abusing substances and risking HIV contraction. If outbreaks can happen in the Scott and Jackson areas, other rural and isolated communities in states such as California can also be vulnerable. More than 5 million Californians live in rural areas.
“The situation in Indiana should serve as a warning not to let our guard down,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “This is a powerful reminder that HIV and other infectious diseases can gain ground at any time, unless you remain vigilant.”
Treating addiction improves more than mental health. Quitting substance abuse benefits physical well-being and lowers chances of developing dangerous diseases. Seeking an addiction treatment specialist can be a matter of life and death.
The Sovereign Health Group takes on a variety of addictions for the sake of patients in California and across the country. Our treatments are proven to spark and sustain recovery now and in the future. Find out more by calling our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer
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