Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection.
There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These are of the most significant concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the e potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread.
What does hep have to do with me? I use drugs, mate!
Hepatitis B (HPV) and hepatitis C (HPC) are the most common viral hepatitis infection transmitted from taking drugs. And I shit you not; if you think you can catch this deadly virus by only injecting drugs, then you need to keep reading. Hep C and Hep B is primarily transmitted amongst people who inject drugs. This can be Heroin, Crack, Cocaine, Amphetamines and anything else you choose to bang in a pin.
The British liver trust warns thousands of people may have contracted Hepatitis C by sharing bank notes, tubes and straws while snorting cocaine. They are urging you to get tested for the HVC Virus. Hep C or HCV is a bloodborne virus that can and will cause life-threatening disease to the liver. This can cause liver cancer.
How does snorting cocaine lead to hepatitis?
Hep is, as said, a bloodborne virus (BBV). If someone infected with a disease gets blood from their nose onto a note or straw, and then you use the same, you're at significant risk of contracting it yourself. The amount of blood needed is microscopic.
This also includes injecting drugs.
Hepatitis and sharing needles
As the HPC virus can be spread by sharing needles, it only takes one person in the group to be infected. You all share the spoon and dip your needle in it after. You may even be sharing the needle, as yours is blunt.
The reality is that if the needle used by someone infected has touched the same spoon you're using, again, you're at significant risk.
In the US, Dr Rosenthal states about "50% of people who inject drugs in the US have been exposed to HCV"
I don't inject drugs. I'm not at risk
You go out, to excellent restaurants, bistro pubs, maybe an exclusive club? Sit around, drinking, chatting to the pretty boys and girls. The bubbles are flowing, and the coke is all around you. People are slipping to the bathroom, ladies powdering their noses, gents squeezing into the cubicles.
Including you and your friends. You've wracked lines on the back of your phone, and you all take a turn. But the guy who went second is infected, and now everyone who went after is in danger.
Not you, though. You've used your own straw or note or even one of those little snorters you bought in Amsterdam.
The coke is snowing down. The alcohol is freely flowing, and inhibitions are very low. You're getting horny and flirting with the boy across from you. Soon, you're in the cubicle together but staying safe, not sharing a straw.
But then you're having sex. And all those precautions you took with separate straws are undone because there are no condoms available.
HEP C can be transmitted during sex without using a condom. This risk is considered lower. But, always a but, if you're a man having sex with other men, your risk is higher.
You can't catch HEP from
- Toilet seats
What are the symptoms?
Hepatitis C does not usually cause symptoms in the early stages, but the virus remains in the liver, yielding a hidden and silent infection. Over decades, the condition causes progressive liver damage, and liver cirrhosis may set in when symptoms appear, such as fatigue or signs of liver failure. This can lead to catastrophic, life-threatening complications.
The do's and the don'ts
Firstly, DON'T think you can't catch Hep if you use drugs. Respect yourself and others around you. Don't share. It's not being rude; it's being safe.
Secondly – DO get help if you think you've put yourself at risk!! Speak to your GP or your local GUM clinic.
Thirdly – Enjoy life and stay safe.