Drug Abuse Treatment Affects Spread of Hepatitis C Virus

Results of a study recently presented at the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 41st Annual Medical Scientific Conference, shows further evidence that treating heroin addicts in a structured, methadone maintenance program reduces rates of hepatitis C (HCV).
Lead study investigators at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment amp; Research at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel discovered low rates of HCV among study participants. They found that among the 207 HCV-negative patients admitted for drug abuse treatment at the Tel Aviv clinic between 1993 and 2008, only 25 patients became HCV-positive or 2.2 per 100 person-years of follow-up. These rates of conversion to the virus are considered very low.

Also examined in the study were the risks for conversion to HCV. Most at risk were those addicts who injected their drugs, benzodiazapine use upon admission, and re-admission to methadone maintenance treatment. For these patients, the conversion rate was much higher.

Research has shown positive outcomes in the treatment of opioid addiction with methadone maintenance. For the past 40 years, it’s use among this population has positively impacted public health issues, most recently being human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Methadone has been studied in-depth for many reasons, one of which being the legal requirement of dispensing the medication in special clinics. The clinics are highly regulated. This has allowed for the amount of data available. Positive results showing the decline in both HIV and HCV infections have prompted public health officials to seek out addicts encouraging them to come in for treatment. This is an on-going effort.

Thanks in part to the wealth of data and literature available, methadone has shown to be an effective treatment and public health tool. With the excellent outcomes of treatment, addicts are now less likely to become infected with hepatitis C.

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