Currently, there are over 20 million people in the United States who are both active and former addicts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2000 to 2015, more than half a million individuals died from drug overdoses. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. In 2017, the number of opiate overdose deaths has jumped to 144 per day. Addiction plays a multi-faceted role in how it affects society.
Substance abuse affects incarceration rates, vehicle accidents, employment and the overall financial burden placed on the government and health insurers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has estimated that the annual financial burden to be in excess of $78.5 billion, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
Substance abuse and addiction has shown to be detrimental to the abuser’s overall health, and risk of developing disease increases exponentially. There are a number of secondary sequelae that result from IV drug abuse and usage of illicit substances. Infectious disease complications are one of the major consequences of the substance abuse epidemic. They include complications such as: bacteremia, endocarditis, skin and soft tissue infections, osteomyelitis, Hepatitis c and HIV.
Dr. Sandra A. Springer from the Yale school of Medicine conducted a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine where she noted that medical settings that manage the infectious sequelae of substance abuse and addiction have the potential to offer a means of engaging people in the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). However, it was noted that few providers and hospitals treating these conditions had the capabilities and needed resources. She concluded that there is an urgent need to implement and scale up effective Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment in healthcare settings to address the intersecting epidemics of OUD and its infectious disease consequences.
In a study conducted by Margie Skeer of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, she noted that there are a number of barriers that sufferers of Hepatitis C virus who inject drugs (PWID) face in regard to testing, counseling and treatment.
The field of Medicine is ever expanding, day-by-day, due to the constant advancements in medical knowledge. Diseases that were once considered to be incurable now have treatments that allow patients to live long, healthy lives, without the hindrance of disease processes. Due to this, it is important to take advantage of the wealth of information present and translate that into something meaningful which could have a positive impact on patient outcomes, reducing both morbidity and mortality rates. Research and innovation is the future of medicine, and a guiding principle of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM).
In the realm of Hepatitis C treatment, there is no exception to the rule. Current treatments modalities available offer higher success rates, fewer side effects and a shorter duration of treatment. With that being said, one would expect the uptake of these treatments to be higher amongst people who inject drugs. However, it is not due to a number of different barriers amongst young PWID which included a feeling that they do not deserve treatment, feeling dissatisfied with provider interactions, perceived lack of referral to treatment and care continuity, stigma among healthcare providers, and policies that disincentivize HCV treatment.
The study found that “negative interactions with healthcare providers during the HCV testing process and perceived inadequate access to HCV treatment reinforced the perception that young PWID are undeserving of treatment, resulting in a reduced willingness to ultimately pursue newly available treatment options”.
Hepatitis, when detected early, can be treated with antiviral medications, maximizing the chances of the patient maintaining maximal liver function, and preventing one from developing severe chronic side effects, such as liver cirrhosis and cancer. At Detox of South Florida, a premier Florida drug and alcohol treatment center Hepatitis detection and treatment is a part of our treatment protocols, alongside other traditional detoxification protocols instituted. A high level of attention is given to educating our patients on the importance of treating this curable condition in its early stages, in a caring stigma-free environment. Detox of South Florida is very fortunate to have a resident Gastroenterologist Physician, Dr. Vikram Tarugu, who is an expert in Hepatitis, available 5 days a week to address the Gastrointestinal needs of our patients.
Dr. Tahir Naeem, MD is a board certified internist in Okeechobee, Florida. He is affiliated with Raulerson Hospital and Martin Health System.
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