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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hepatitis C Linked to Prescription Drug Abuse

Southern and Appalachian states have been hit especially hard by the prescription drug epidemic plaguing the United States. With prescription drug abuse often comes addiction, and relying on more effective methods for getting the powerful narcotics into one’s system - such as IV drug use. New research suggests that the rise in IV drug use has led to a surge of new hepatitis C cases, USA Today reports.

A new report released conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in rural areas of four Appalachian states, hepatitis C cases more than tripled from 2006 to 2012. The figures are particularly alarming for the fact that hepatitis C is responsible for more loss in life than AIDS.

"We're in the midst of a national epidemic of hepatitis C," said John Ward, director of viral hepatitis prevention at the CDC. Ward adds that nationwide, more than 20,000 Americans die from hepatitis C each year, which is more than the number who die from AIDS. "The CDC views hepatitis C as an urgent public health problem."

Among people age 30 and younger, new hepatitis C cases a rose from 1.25 per 100,000 in 2006 people to 4 per 100,000 in 2012 in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The rise in hepatitis C cases is a clear indicator that states need to heavily invest in needle exchange programs. Such programs will not only prevent the spread of deadly infections, they will also give outreach substance abuse counselors a forum to talk to addicts about their addiction.

The state of Indiana has been faced with an increase of HIV cases directly tied to the injection of the prescription opioid Opana. As a result, Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency, authorizing a short-term needle exchange program in one county, according to the article.

"It is critically important that needle exchange programs like the temporary one in Indiana be replicated across the country, and be permanent," said Paul Samuels, president and director of the Legal Action Center, which advocates on behalf of people with HIV or substance abuse disorders.

"Studies have repeatedly proven that needle exchange programs reduce HIV, hepatitis and other infections among people who use intravenous drugs without increasing intravenous drug use, and indeed they are a bridge to treatment for some participants. Substance abuse prevention and treatment, including treatment with medications, and harm reduction — including needle exchange — are all necessary components of a comprehensive strategy for combating the opioid epidemic and addressing the many ways it can harm people with addictions."

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