The number of cases of hepatitis C, HIV and other infectious diseases is surging among people with opioid use disorder, according to experts who published recommendations to combat the problem.
In the Annals of Internal Medicine, the experts recommend that everyone evaluated in medical settings for overdose, heart valve infections, blood poisoning, HIV, hepatitis C, and other serious infections should be screened for opioid use disorder. People found to have opioid use disorder should immediately receive prescriptions for a Food and Drug Administration-approved medication that treats the disorder and/or withdrawal symptoms and prevents relapse, Reuters reports.
Hospitals should develop processes that ensure treatment for opioid use disorder is started and that patients get linked to community-based treatment after discharge. In addition, hospitals, medical schools, physician assistant schools, nursing schools, and residency programs should increase training to identify and treat opioid use disorder. Finally, access to addiction care needs to be increased, as does funding to states to provide effective medications for treating opioid use disorder.
How to Help Minimize the Risks of IV Drug Use [VIDEO SERIES]
One of the outcomes of the current opioid epidemic is an increased rate of intravenous (IV) drug use — meaning directly injecting opioids or other substances into a vein. It’s a practice that layers risk on top of risk, -including transmission of hepatitis C, HIV and other infectious diseases. Yet unfortunately, simply knowing the risks isn’t an effective deterrent, nor a bridge to addiction treatment.