Hepatitis C is a common and well-known disease in the substance abuse community. Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common blood-borne virus in the United States, with 4-5 million Americans currently infected. In fact, Hep C is 3x more common than HIV. If left untreated Hep C can cause serious liver damage, including liver failure. The transmission of Hep C through the sharing of needles occurs at an alarming rate, leaving IV drug user to be the most at risk. For many they aren’t even aware that they have it, since often there are no noticeable symptoms till there is substantial liver damage or the symptoms are masked by being high or in withdrawals. Therefore, it is so important to get tested. Once tested and properly diagnosed, Hep C can be treated, monitored, and recently even cured.
When someone is struggling with substance abuse getting tested is not always a priority or an option. Since Hep C is contracted by encountering the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person there are some ways to reduce the risk of transmission. Always have protected sex. This will reduce the risk of Hep C, HIV, and other unwanted STDs. Don’t share needles. Make sure to always use clean needles and avoid sharing with others. Some states offer needle exchange programs to make it easier to ensure that you are always using a clean needle (Find a local needle exchange program at nasen.org).
When focusing on health, diet and exercise always play a large role. Eating a balanced diet and staying active help the mind and body to stay healthy. The most important thing to remember is that Hep C causes inflammation of the liver, so staying away from foods high in sugar and saturated fat, which causes the liver to work harder, is recommended. Adding foods to your diet with natural anti-inflammation effects like Fatty Fish, Berries, Turmeric, Cherries, Olive Oil, and Kale to name a few will help the liver and naturally treat the inflammation.
HEP C is a silent epidemic that does not discriminate. We must continue to educate and take precautions so that the numbers of those infected does not continue to grow. If you or someone you know would like more information on HEP C check out the links below.