Nationwide Increase in Hepatitis C Linked to Opioid Usage

The most common blood-borne infection is seeing a spike in cases across the US due to injection drug use (IDU).

The most common blood-borne infection is seeing a spike in cases across the US due to injection drug use (IDU).

Collected between 2006 and 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined data pertaining to hepatitis C virus (HCV) statistics and other information. The team broke down the types of admission into categories including heroin admission, prescription opioid admission, and any opioid admission. The type of drug admission was also defined as either any opioid injection or nonopioid injection. Furthermore, they explained the rise of cases and how pain medications are playing a major role in the transmission.

“Demographic and behavioral data accompanying these reports show young persons (aged ≤ 30 years) from nonurban areas contributed to the majority of cases, with about 73% citing IDU as a principal risk factor,” the authors wrote in the CDC study.

The team analyzed data specifically from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia among individuals ages 12 through 29. There was a significant increase — up 364% from 2006 to 2012 – in acute HCV infections. There were 1,377 HCV cases reported in those 4 states over the course of those 6 year alone. This correlated with an increase of treatment admissions for opioid dependency by 21.1% in those states. Out of the admissions, 12.6% reported that injection was their main route for drugs.

The data also indicated that every 3 out of 4 heroin and prescription opioid users said that they began with the prescription misuse before heroin. The team pointed out that heroin dependency jumped from 214,000 in 2002 to 467,000 in 2012.

“This regional increase in heroin use is consistent with national survey reports estimating an increase in first-time heroin use from 90,000 persons in 20006 to 156,000 persons in 2012,” the report said.

The CDC warns that around 70 to 80% of patients with acute HCV show any symptoms yet 75 to 85% will develop chronic HCV. This makes keeping a watchful eye on risk factors even more crucial to help reduce transmission. The increase of infections have potentially damaging consequences on the entire country between spreading the infection and mortality rate.

“These efforts will require further collaboration among federal partners and state and local health departments, particularly in those regions most heavily impacted, to better address the syndemic of opioid abuse and HCV infection,” the team concluded.