Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Snorting Drugs Can Expose You To Hepatitis C
Recent clinical evidence for “intranasal transmission.”
Classify this item in the “not good news” file. Hepatitis C—it’s not just for syringe users anymore. Contrary to previous theory, dirty needles or direct blood exposure may not be necessary. While bodily fluids have always been suspect, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center and other institutions have discovered evidence of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in nasal secretions left in straws used to sniff drugs.
It is no secret that the regular practice of snorting or sniffing drugs can lead to inflammation and bleeding in the tender mucous membranes in the nose. This complicates the risk of using “shared drug-sniffing implements,” as the study refers to them.
According to a report of the work in NIDA Addiction Research News, the method of disease transmission is unknown in an estimated 20 percent of Hepatitis C infections. NIDA said the researchers “asked participants to snort air through a straw in a way that would mimic their normal drug-sniffing behavior to determine whether sniffing implements became contaminated. The straws were then tested for blood and HCV.”
In the study of 38 intranasal drug users, all of whom had active Hepatitis C infections, “researchers found trace amounts of blood in 74 percent of mucus samples and on 8 percent of the straws used for sniffing. In addition, they detected HCV in 13 percent of mucus samples and on 5 percent of the straws.” The Hepatitis C virus is capable of surviving on surfaces for as long as 16 hours. The scientists conclude that the results, while preliminary, “lend important virological and clinical support to the intranasal HCV transmission hypothesis.”
In fact, the authors of the study suggest that the findings are quite likely conservative, given that the Hepatitis C virus is more likely to “occur in the nasal secretions with greater frequency during episodes of active drug sniffing, which may exacerbate the discharge of nasal fluids and blood.”
The findings were reported in the October 1, 2008 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
PHOTO CREDIT: Hepatitis C Harm Reduction Project