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Hepatitis and Substance Abuse Withdrawal Treatment

Many drug abusers and addicts also are infected with hepatitis, making hepatitis withdrawal treatment a specific concern for this population. Hepatitis comes in five forms, all of which are caused by viruses that affect the liver. Of the five forms, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are commonly found in drug abusers. These two forms are especially common in individuals who inject drugs directly into their veins and share needles with other drug users. Drug abusers can also spread hepatitis A between users, but this variant typically resolves itself on its own without treatment over the course of a few weeks to a few months, so chronic management of the condition is not necessary.

Special Concerns for Hepatitis Sufferers

Drug abusers who also have hepatitis need to be monitored throughout the entire treatment process to help prevent relapses and ensure compliance to the treatment program. If a hepatitis sufferer has a relapse, he or she could spread the virus to other drug users through shared needle use. If the individual has hepatitis C but not hepatitis B or A, vaccines should be administered for these two vaccine-preventable strains. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, so individuals who do not have this strain yet may still be vulnerable to it if they continue to use drugs.

Drug Withdrawal for Hepatitis-Infected Individuals

Drug withdrawal for hepatitis-infected individuals should take into account not only the removal of the drug from the body but also the treatment of the hepatitis infection. The specific combination that comprises a patient's hepatitis withdrawal treatment depends on the type of drug used and the strain of hepatitis present in the system. Addiction to and abuse of some drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, are treated primarily by psychological counseling and behavioral therapy because there are no accepted medications that help with withdrawal or recovery from these substances. Abuse and addiction associated with some other substances, such as narcotics and alcohol, can be treated using a combination of therapy and medication. Hepatitis-infected individuals can undergo both types of substance abuse treatment.

Medical Care for Hepatitis

Someone with hepatitis can take medication for the disease while also undergoing detoxification and rehabilitation from substance abuse. The drugs peginterferon and ribavirin are typically used in combination to treat hepatitis C. Hepatitis B can be treated using alpha interferon, peginterferon, or an antiviral drug, such as lamivudine, adefovir dipivoxil, entecavir, or telbivudine. All of these drugs are compatible with substance abuse treatment and are nonaddictive, so there is no risk of subsequent addiction.

Medically Assisted Detox Options for Hepatitis Sufferers

For some forms of substance abuse, medically assisted detoxification can be useful. In particular, medically assisted detoxification is often used for patients detoxing from opiate drugs, including heroin, morphine, codeine, OxyContin, and other narcotic pain relievers. Methadone is commonly used to help these patients manage withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. Another drug that is often used for opiate detoxification is buprenorphine. Both buprenorphine and methadone can be taken simultaneously with drugs that treat hepatitis, so treatment for both the disease and substance abuse can begin at the same time. However, because both substances are metabolized in the liver, the patient should be monitored for liver function and the dose of the various medications being taken may need to be adjusted throughout the course of treatment. Medications used for alcohol withdrawal and treatment include disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate. Naltrexone cannot be used by hepatitis patients, but the others may be safe as long as liver function is monitored throughout the treatment process. If you or someone you know needs more information about hepatitis withdrawal treatment and follow-up care for hepatitis-infected individuals, call us at 1-888-658-5242 for a free referral.

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