Since I interact with a lot of heroin and IV drug users, I know a higher than average number of people who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Almost everyone I interact with on a daily basis has at least one, if not both, myself included. It’s one of the very unfortunate consequences of immersing yourself in the drug using community. Your risk of acquiring one of the aforementioned diseases exponentially skyrockets. Of course, if you never share needles, or use dirty ones, you won’t be exposed to either disease, ever. But as easy as that sounds, I’ve yet to know an IV drug user who has religiously followed that advice, even knowing the consequences (again, myself included). As most of my regular readers probably know, I’ve shared needles with two people, under 10 times probably, and still I contracted Hep C and have to live with the consequences. But I’m determined to get treatment and not let this virus take decades off my life. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. While a drug does exist to basically cure Hepatitis C, newly released Harvoni, it comes with a heft price tag of $98,000. I’ve petitioned my insurance company for it twice, only to be denied twice. The good news is, I’ve recently switched insurance plans and am now on Medical, and I’m fairly certain Medical is required to cover it. So I will be trying again in the very near future! The bad news, I have genotype 3 Hepatitis C, which Harvoni does not cure. So I will be looking at a combined treatment plan. Fortunately for you, it’s a very rare form of Hepatitis C (at least in the United States). Almost everybody in The States has genotype 1, which Harvoni does basically cure.
You would think that since I know so many people with Hepatitis C that I would know a lot of people going through the same thing with their insurance companies, or people who have successfully been prescribed Harvoni. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I don’t know one other person who has even attempted to get treatment. Not one person. I find this a very depressing glimpse into the reality of junkies and drug addicts as a community. When people in my real life find out about my blog and my passion for helping other addicts and encyclopedia of heroin and drug related knowledge, questions about the side effects and long term consequences of Hepatitis C frequently is at the top of their list. The misconceptions surrounding Hep C are numerous. Some people still believe if they don’t have symptoms they are okay. Or that it really doesn’t kill you anymore, especially if you stay healthy. But that’s simply not the case. Hepatitis C is a killer and will destroy your liver. It might not be a speedy killer, like many cancers, but it will kill you. Many people neglect treatment, continue engaging in risky behavior and don’t consider general lifestyle changes that would greatly prolong their potential lifespan. It can take up to a decade to see any real negative consequences from it, but trust and believe, if left untreated, you will see the adverse effects sooner or later. Ten years might seem like a long time, but during that time the virus is doing its work on your body and by the time you see any effects, it will be too late for preventative care. You can look forward to cirrhosis and/or liver cancer and ultimately, an untimely death. If you consume alcohol, you are only expediting the rate at which any Hepatitis C induced liver complications occur.
If you are an injecting drug user (and chances are pretty high that you are if you are reading this blog!!) you are in the group considered the highest risk factor. I know very few, if any long term IV drug users who are not infected. The question isn’t whether or not you have Hepatitis C, it’s what genotype do you have and are you doing anything to combat this vicious virus and improve the quality and longevity of your life? If Hepatitis C is a real threat to your life, or the life of someone you know, get to know more about the disease. I’ve complied a short list of resources that you might find valuable. My number one piece of advice is not to keep quite about your Hep C. It’s not something to be ashamed about. Don’t avoid going to the doctor because you are an injecting drug user. When you deal with a doctor qualified to a treat Hep C, you won’t find the same stigma against IV drug users as you would in an ER or family practitioner. These are doctors who are used to dealing with people like you and have empathy towards your plight in life. Don’t try to hide your drug use from them, just talk frankly and honestly. It’s the only way to get the best treatment plan for you and your lifestyle. If you have any questions you want to ask before you make and appointment, I’m always here to answer them. In the meantime, take a look at these resources and get familiar with this all too common virus.
Take this quiz to evaluate your IQ of Hepatitis C. Get the facts on this chronic condition that affects one of the body’s largest organs.
Want some more information on Hepatitis C? Check out these informative websites…
As I mentioned, not all genotypes of Hepatitis C are treatable with Harvoni. If you are curious about the different treatment plans and how you will most likely be treated, here is a table that outlines the different medications and treatments recommended for each form of Hepatitis C. Obviously, I am not a doctor and each person will have to consult their own specialist. But this will give you a good idea of the most likely treatments.
Remember… always use a fresh, new needle each time and you’ll never have to worry about Hepatitis C or any other communicable disease!!