Individuals who use injection drugs suffer from various health problems, with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C and skin infections being the most significant ones (Lavender and McCarron 511). Many fatalities and huge healthcare costs have been associated with such health issues. This paper describes the health issues in detail and recommends intervention for each. Proper interventions are vital for the reduction of the spreading rates of illnesses as well as improving the lives of the injection drug users who have already become victims.
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Major Health Problems Facing Injection Drug Users
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Individuals who use injection drugs are highly susceptible to the contraction and transmission of HIV infection since the misuse of the drugs can interfere with their cognitive ability to make sound judgments, hence poor handling and sharing of needles. Moreover, they are highly likely to have unprotected sex with different partners over and above using unsterilized needles for drug injection (Dutta et al. 366).
Decriminalization policy that allows people who use injection drugs to attend treatment programs rather than being arrested can be an effective strategy for reducing the prevalence of HIV among this group. This approach has been employed in Portugal and has led to a significant decline in the number of HIV cases among the injection drug users’ population.
A person found with any drug sufficiently proven to be for misuse should not be arrested but instead required to appear in a special commission, which can order the culprit to pay a fine or go through treatment program/monitoring activity, among other administrative sanctions. However, drug trafficking is illegal and has to go through the criminal justice system. The HIV occurrence amid injection drug users in Portugal reduced from 907 to 267 between 2000 and 2008 while the incidence of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) dropped to 108 from 506 as a result of the policy (Buckingham et al. 7).
Hepatitis C is a viral infection, which is mostly transmitted among injection drug users through risky sexual behaviors and the sharing of equipment such as needles, cotton, spoons, and water. The control of this illness among the drug users needs suitable interventions to be developed and implemented in terms of engagement methods that will enhance their retention in proper health care, for instance, improved access to medical-assisted treatment (MacArthur et al. 45).
Since viral hepatitis’s symptoms are usually mild or absent, the majority of injection drug users do not know their health status, hence increasing risks of further transmission (Aspinall et al. 84). Therefore, adequate access to medical-assisted treatment of the disease and campaigns emphasizing the importance of Hepatitis C screening as well as abstinence from risky sexual/drug use behaviors could be effective ways of reducing the diseases’ cases among injection drugs users.
Skin and soft tissue infections are responsible for the majority of injection drug users’ hospital admission cases. The instances of the infections mostly include cutaneous and subcutaneous abscesses, usually caused by the inability of the drug users to inject intravenously, resulting in direct skin or muscle injection. Adequate access to medically supervised facilities could be an effective measure of reducing the prevalence of these infections (Pirozzi et al. 157). In the health facilities, the users could be counseled (against misuse and illicit drugs) and assisted to inject medication safely under clinical supervision and proper care.
In conclusion, skin infections, Hepatitis C, and HIV are the major health problems facing injection drug users. Although these people face numerous health challenges, all is not lost since something could be done to aid their recovery. Adequate access to medically supervised facilities and medication-assisted treatment, as well as decriminalization policy regarding illicit drugs and medication misuse, may be effective ways of reducing the occurrence of health problems.
Aspinall, Esther, et al. “Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus Infection among People who are Actively Injecting Drugs: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 57, no. 2, 2013, pp. 80-89.
Buckingham, Elizabeth, et al. “Why the Treatment of Mental Disorders is an Important Component of HIV Prevention among People Who Inject Drugs.” Advances in Preventive Medicine, vol. 2, no. 13, 2013, pp. 1-9.
Dutta, Arin, et al. “Key Harm Reduction Interventions and Their Impact on the Reduction of Risky Behavior and HIV Incidence among People Who Inject Drugs in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries.” Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS, vol. 7, no. 4, 2012, pp. 362-368.
Lavender, Thomas, and Brendan McCarron. “Acute Infections in Intravenous Drug Users.” Clinical Medicine, vol. 13, no. 5, 2013, pp. 511-513.
MacArthur, Georgina, et al. “Interventions to Prevent HIV and Hepatitis C in People Who Inject Drugs: A Review of Reviews to Assess Evidence of Effectiveness.” International Journal of Drug Policy, vol. 25, no. 1, 2014, pp. 34-52.
Pirozzi, Kelly, et al. “Demographic Description of the Presentation and Treatment of Lower Extremity Skin and Soft Tissue Infections Secondary to Skin Popping in Intravenous Drug Abusers.” The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, vol. 53, no. 2, 2014, pp. 156-159.