Prescription Drug Abuse Cited in HIV Outbreak

opanaThe amount of HIV cases annually in this country has significantly lessened as more and more people understand the risk factors for contracting the virus. Drug users have always been at risk for acquiring the deadly disease, especially those who inject drugs and share needles.

In order to combat the potential for addicts to get HIV, some areas around the world created needle exchange centers where addicts could turn in old needles and receive clean ones. While this form of harm reduction is frowned upon by some, it can help prevent the spread of disease and open the door for a chance at treatment diversion during the engagement. Safer practices paired with increased education on HIV and AIDS has all contributed to the declining numbers in new HIV cases a year. However, Indiana officials report that a new wave of new HIV cases has begun to come up and they are all connected with prescription drug abuse.

Since the beginning of the year there have been 27 cases of newly contracted HIV events and 10 cases that are still pending further tests. All patients lived in southeast Indiana and all patients admitted to injecting Opana (a narcotic painkiller) before finding out they were HIV positive.

“It’s very concerning to me that most of the individuals who have tested HIV positive have only recently contracted the virus. Because prescription drug abuse is at the heart of this outbreak, we are not only working to identify, contact and test individuals who may have been exposed, but also to connect community members to resources for substance abuse treatment and recovery,” explained Jerome Adams, the State Health Commissioner for Indiana.

State officials are trying to figure out the approach to this new wave of HIV contractions. Addicts have traditionally taken risks when it comes to their health. In an effort to avoid painful withdrawal symptoms and maintain their drug lifestyle, users put themselves at greater risk of getting diseases like HIV and hepatitis from sharing needles.

In order to prevent the virus from spreading to more people, officials are urging addicts to seek treatment. While there are needle exchange programs that reduce the risk an addict faces when injecting drugs, it is much healthier and safer to address the addiction and eliminate the drugs from a person’s life.

The nation continues to struggle with opiate addiction in devastating waves. From prescription painkillers to heroin, millions of people have become dependent on these drugs. In this case, Opana is actually stronger than the drug OxyContin that created an epidemic several years ago.

All of this points to the reality that effective drug interventions are necessary and relevant to any discussion surrounding substance abuse. Interventions can prevent further addiction and the spread of disease by diverting more people into successful forms of treatment.

Mike Loverde

With firsthand experience with addiction, Mike Loverde is now a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), as accredited by the Association of Intervention Specialists and the Pennsylvania Certification Board. He founded Family First Intervention in 2008 and has since helped hundreds of families find intervention and addiction rehabilitation solutions.

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