The ongoing drug crisis in the United States has had devastating effects felt across all demographics in every state. The rising numbers of new addiction cases, emergency room visits, and accidental overdose deaths are the most salient effects. Still, the drug problem in the country has some less visible but equally troubling effects as well. One of them shows an alarming rate of new cases; so let’s examine the rising numbers of hepatitis C.
Heroin Use Leads to Public Health Problems
Most Americans are aware of the ongoing problems caused by prescription opioid painkiller abuse. After forming a dependency on prescription opioids, addicted individuals often turn to heroin to sustain their addictions once prescription refills are no longer available. Heroin is unregulated; individuals who purchase it on the street have no way of knowing what is in it— or what effects it will have. Additionally, heroin users might not have access to clean syringes, resulting in shared supplies between addicts. Sharing needles is dangerous because it is one of the most common ways for infectious diseases to spread. In fact, it is one of the root causes for the rising numbers of hepatitis C.
UNODC 2017 Report
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recently released a report detailing the harmful effects of drug abuse on public health. The report concluded that hepatitis C is prominent among the estimated 12 million people worldwide who use injectable drugs. Of these 12 million people, more than half are living with hepatitis C and one in eight have HIV. Roughly 1.3 million of these people suffer from both. Although most people are familiar with how severe an HIV diagnosis is, few realize hepatitis C inflicts the greatest harm.
Overall, hepatitis C is three times as deadly as HIV.
CDC Findings for the Rising Numbers of Hepatitis C Cases
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report in May 2017 that concluded new hepatitis C infections tripled over the past five years. However, the CDC mentions the actual rate of new infections is likely higher.
Hepatitis C has few symptoms, and many of the people who have it do not realize it. Because of under-reporting, CDC researchers also believe the true rates of new infections are much higher.
The CDC report claims hepatitis C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease.
The National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan
These findings and the continuing issues created by the opioid and heroin epidemic have spurred the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pursue more expansive testing, create new prevention models and provide people more access to treatment.
The National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan aims to address the ongoing hepatitis issue in the United States and throughout the world. The plan’s goal is to eliminate new viral hepatitis infections, help those who have hepatitis B and C know their status and provide treatment to those suffering from chronic hepatitis B or C.
Prevent Hepatitis C Sooner than Later
If you or a loved one is struggling with a heroin addiction, seeking treatment as soon as possible is the best way to prevent a hepatitis infection. The longer a person maintains a heroin addiction, the greater the risk of infection becomes to the user and everyone he or she shares the drug with. At The Treatment Center, we understand that the best way to prevent hepatitis C is to stop heroin addiction by treating the whole person, not just the visible symptoms of addiction.