If you are a woman in Washington State addicted to an injectable drug such as heroin, there are many reasons to seek help for your addiction. A recent study, however, shows that women who use injectable drugs may be more at risk than men.
New Study Results Are Troubling
According to the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), women injecting drugs are 38 percent more likely to contract hepatitis C virus than men.
Some additional findings of the study are surprising. For instance, sharing syringes and other injection equipment while taking drugs is a definite risk factor for both men and women. However, according to NIDA, differences in needle-sharing behaviors do not account for the significantly higher risk of HCV in women.
The study examined over 1800 people, pulling information from an extensive data pool that covered several countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands.
In their conclusion, the authors note that women who inject drugs are 38 percent more susceptible to HCV “independent of demographic characteristics and risk behaviors.” Possible contributing factors include:
- Biological/hormonal components
- Social networks
- Access to prevention services/treatment
NIDA indicates that further research is needed to fully explore and understand all of the contributing factors, saying that by better understanding, successful prevention strategies can be implemented to address both drug abuse and HCV infection.
What is HCV?
Hepatitis C is a liver disease, expressed in both acute and chronic forms. The virus can cause mild discomfort that lasts a few weeks, or it can cause severe pain and symptoms that remain for a lifetime.
The virus is bloodborne, and one of the most common ways it is passed among people is through exposure to small amounts of infected blood. Sharing needles during drug use is an all-too-common form of transmission. Approximately 71 million people worldwide are infected with chronic HCV today, according to the World Health Organization. There is currently no vaccine for HCV, and while medical treatment exists, it is often difficult to access.
Injection Drugs and HCV
A comprehensive look at injection drug use and HCV infections was published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal in 2013 and highlights the scope of the current situation.
Incidences of HCV infection remain high in America, particularly among young, white adults under the age of 30. A history of opioid use, or a current addiction to opioids, is also indicated as a strong risk factor for contracting HCV. This is directly related to the opioid crisis gripping America in recent years.
HCV is 10 times more infectious than the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, and multiple studies point to the risks of sharing drug equipment. Sharing needles is one of the most common methods of transmissions; this review estimates that up to 25 percent of infections could be prevented by eliminating that particular form of exposure.
The body of information available, combined with the findings of the new study showing women are particularly at risk, highlights the need for more developed prevention and treatment strategies across the US.
If you are a woman struggling with drug addiction in Washington State, there is help for you. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we can work with you to develop a specialized treatment plan that suits your individual needs. Reconnect with and rejuvenate yourself at our fully equipped in-patient retreat in the Pacific Northwest. Contact us today and start your journey toward wellness.