May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and can cause damage to your short and long-term health if left untreated. There are many types of Hepatitis, and some are caused by long-term substance abuse. Research suggests that 2.4 million people live with Hepatitis C, which is common in people who inject drugs.[1]

Celebrate Hepatitis Awareness Month by learning about the connection between substance abuse and hepatitis. A healthy liver is essential to your overall health. If you struggle with addiction, you are at increased risk of hepatitis. After being diagnosed with hepatitis, participating in substance abuse treatment must be your next step.

Understanding the connection between substance abuse and some common forms of hepatitis can help you make informed decisions about your health and take steps to protect yourself from this serious medical condition.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation or damage to the liver. The liver performs a variety of essential functions, including filtering toxins from the blood, breaking down fat, carbohydrates, and proteins, and making clotting factors in our blood. People can not live long, healthy lives with a damaged liver.

Hepatitis is caused by several factors related to substance abuse. Hepatitis C is a kind of viral hepatitis that is common among people who inject drugs. Needle sharing drastically increases the likelihood that someone will contract Hepatitis C. In fact, research suggests that between 50 to 100% of people who inject drugs will contract Hepatitis C. Modern medicine can cure Hepatitis C, but around 80% of people who abuse substances will live with this condition for life.[2]

Alcoholic Hepatitis is liver damage that can occur after long-term alcohol use. Between 10 and 20% of people who abuse alcohol will develop Alcoholic Hepatitis. Alcoholic Hepatitis can develop after only a few years of heavy alcohol use.[3]

There are effective treatments for hepatitis, including antiviral medications. However, if the condition is left untreated for too long, the damage to the liver can be so extensive that the only route of treatment is a liver transplant.

Being aware of your risk factors for hepatitis and getting substance abuse treatment are important steps in protecting your health.

Recognizing Hepatitis

Most people don’t spend much time thinking about their liver. That’s because when it works well, we feel good. It is only when our liver has sustained damage that we notice the effects of hepatitis. This can accumulate slowly over time and be barely noticeable until the damage is severe.

Many people live with hepatitis without knowing it for years until physical symptoms develop. Some of the recognizable symptoms of hepatitis include:[2]

  • Jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes)
  • Flu-like symptoms–body aches, chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Enlarged liver or pancreas (identified during a medical exam)

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to get a medical examination and treatment right away. They are signs of extensive liver damage.

If you struggle with substance abuse or addiction or use injectable drugs, talk with your doctor about getting tested for hepatitis, even if you do not experience any of these symptoms. Catching and treating hepatitis early gives you the best chance to avoid long-term, irreversible liver damage.

Treatment for Hepatitis

First, it is important to treat the addiction that contributed to your hepatitis. If you do not treat the addiction, it is likely that you will not be able to participate in an effective treatment plan for hepatitis, and you may make it worse by continuing to abuse substances.

Effective addiction treatment is essential to your overall health and to manage complex medical conditions like hepatitis. Good addiction treatment usually involves detox, medications and therapy, and ongoing support and treatment. Getting help at a treatment center is the best way to overcome addiction, learn how to manage your life without substances, and gain the skills to care for your health for the rest of your life.

Hepatitis is a serious medical condition. If you are at a higher risk of developing hepatitis because of your substance abuse issues, or you have already been diagnosed with a form of hepatitis, getting addiction treatment is the first step in living a long, healthy life. Your health and wellbeing are at stake.

Treatment for Hepatitis and Substance Abuse at Comprehensive Wellness Centers

If you struggle with substance abuse, you may be at higher risk for serious medical conditions, including hepatitis. Take steps to protect the health of your liver by getting tested for hepatitis and taking steps to address it if you are affected.

If you or someone you love need supportive substance abuse treatment, reach out to the staff at Comprehensive Wellness Centers. Our programs are designed to empower people in their journey through recovery.

Substance abuse treatment is the first and most important step in achieving and maintaining sobriety for the rest of your life. It is an investment in your future. Call today to speak with our admissions counselors.