Opioid Epidemic Leads to Increase in Donated Organs Infected with Hepatitis C

The opioid epidemic, which has resulted in an increase in drug overdose deaths, has also led to a rise in donated organs that are infected with hepatitis C, HealthDay reports.

Young people who might be eligible organ donors are most affected, researchers with the Centers for Disease and Prevention wrote in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “Tainted needles are a prime conduit for infection with hepatitis C, which can trigger potentially fatal liver disease over time,” they noted.

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of organs obtained from people at risk of carrying hepatitis because of risky behavior such as drug use tripled, the researchers found. About 26 percent of donor organs came from at-risk individuals in 2017, compared with 9 percent in 2010.

The number of organs that came from people who died from drug intoxication tripled from 4 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2017. Organ donor deaths caused by injected drugs such as heroin increased fivefold during that time.

Heroin & the Opioid Epidemic: From Understanding to Action

Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. Heroin-related deaths increased by more than five times between 2010 and 2017, and drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are seeing a sharp rise as well.