Hepatitis and Substance Abuse and Addiction
Drug and alcohol abuse are closely linked with Hepatitis. In fact, drug use and excessive drinking are the most common vectors through which several forms of Hepatitis spread, and even cause some forms of Hepatitis themselves.
Hepatitis is a number of viral, bacterial, and chemically and metabolically-induced conditions that cause inflammation of the liver tissue. There are five major types of viral Hepatitis and several forms of metabolic Hepatitis.
There are three forms of viral hepatitis that are commonly associated with alcohol and drug use, including:
Hepatitis B (HBV) is contracted through contact with infected body fluids, including blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. The most common methods by which Hepatitis B spreads in the United States are sexual contact and needle sharing. The CDC estimates that 1.2 million Americans are currently infected with Hepatitis B, a very large percentage of which are injection drug users. Between 95% and 99% of Hepatitis B cases resolve without long-lasting effects, although a small percentage become chronic, long-term infections.
Like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C (HCV) spreads through contact with infected body fluids, such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. The most common vectors through which Hepatitis C spreads in the United States are sexual contact and needle sharing. One of the most common bloodborne infections in the world, Hepatitis C currently infects between 2.7 and 3.9 million Americans.
Hepatitis C is extremely common among injection drug users.
Hepatitis D (HDV or Delta Hepatitis) spreads in the same manner as Hepatitis B and C. However, Hepatitis D is a defective virus that can only spread in people who are already infected with Hepatitis B. Hepatitis D is very rare in the United States, only occurring in a small percentage of Hepatitis B sufferers.
A wide range of liver diseases and conditions that are not spread through infectious organisms are known as metabolic Hepatitis. Exposure to many chemicals can cause Hepatitis, especially if the exposure is long term.
Long-term excessive alcohol consumption can cause Hepatitis. In fact, Alcoholic Hepatitis is the single most common cause of Cirrhosis in the United States. Between 10% and 20% of long-term alcoholics will eventually develop Alcoholic Hepatitis.
Toxic and Drug-Induced Hepatitis
A number of chemicals found in commonly used substances can cause Hepatitis, including certain inhalants, prescription medications, and illicit drugs. The duration and amount of the substance necessary to cause Hepatitis varies wildly, with some causing liver damage only after years and some after only brief exposure.
How Hepatitis Develops
As Hepatitis worsens, the liver tissue becomes inflamed. Some affected individuals show no symptoms. Others experience reduced appetite, vomiting, constant tiredness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Known as jaundice, this discoloration is perhaps the most well-known and easily recognizable sign of Hepatitis.
Hepatitis can either be acute or chronic. Acute Hepatitis consists of three phases. During the prodromal phase, flu-like symptoms appear. During the next phase, liver specific symptoms such as dark urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes appear. Enlarged livers and spleens are common during this phase. The recovery phase follows. Most Hepatitis B cases improve within 3-4 months, but less than 20% of Hepatitis C cases ever completely resolve.
If Hepatitis persists for longer than 6 months, it is considered Chronic. Chronic Hepatitis has many of the same symptoms of Acute Hepatitis, only they generally take longer to develop. Chronic Hepatitis severely impacts the long-term functioning of the liver, eventually causing severe damage and scarring, a condition known as Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis permanently impedes the functioning of the liver, and can cause a number of potentially fatal conditions. In many cases, you can prevent Hepatitis by attending treatment. Find help today.
Symptoms of Hepatitis
Symptoms of Hepatitis vary wildly depending on the type of Hepatitis and the stage. Some symptoms of Hepatitis include:
- Yellowed skin and eyes/jaundice
- Flu-like symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Dark or pale stool
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Enlarged liver
- Enlarged pancreas
Because many symptoms of Hepatitis are similar to those of other diseases, the only way to accurately determine a Hepatitis diagnosis is to see a doctor.
Because Hepatitis is a very serious condition and can even lead to fatal complications, any individual who believes that they may have been exposed to any Hepatitis virus or may be suffering from Metabolic Hepatitis should contact their doctor immediately. Hepatitis C virus particles are detectable 1-2 weeks after infection, and antibodies are detectable 3-12 weeks after infection.
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Treatment and Hepatitis
Because of their association with illicit drug use, alcoholism, and sexual activity, many people attach a stigma to Hepatitis sufferers. However, most addiction counselors and treatment centers are very familiar with these conditions and can help sufferers cope and deal with them.
Most cases of Hepatitis B will not require treatment. However, some patients will require hospitalization, especially if factors such as age and other medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS are present. In the rare cases where Hepatitis B becomes Chronic, medication may be required.
Less than 20% of Hepatitis C cases will resolve without medical intervention. The other 80+% will develop into a Chronic, potentially permanent infection. In many cases, Hepatitis C treatment is focused more on preventing serious complications such as Cirrhosis than on curing the disease itself. Generally, Hepatitis C is treated with a suite of medications.
It is imperative that anyone suffering from Metabolic Hepatitis immediately cease consumption of alcohol and any other substances that may be causing the condition. In early stages, reversal of liver damage may be possible. Unfortunately, the prognosis for severe Alcoholic Hepatitis in particular is very poor. Without medical intervention, between 20% and 50% of sufferers die within a month.
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Because of the immediacy and severity of Hepatitis, it is critical that those diagnosed seek help for any addictions that they may have.