Hepatitis C Survivor  

Alcohol and Drug Use With Hepatitis C

Written By:  Teri Gottlieb

The Use of Alcohol in Hepatitis C Patients

No. That is the best word to use when it comes to this subject. No says it all. Drinking when you have Hepatitis C is like pouring gasoline on a raging fire. Basically not a good idea. Alcohol makes the virus run rampant and speeds up the process of cirrhosis. If you have Hep C and you have a drinking problem (if you're drinking at all, it's a problem) please seek help to deal with this issue.

Alcohol blocks the body's natural immune response to the Hepatitis C virus. This might be why heavy drinkers generally have higher viral loads than those who do not drink. The use of alcohol, especially regular alcohol intake is known to increase the rate and severity of liver damage in people with Hepatitis C. It also increases the risk of liver cancer.

Studies have linked alcohol use to poorer Hepatitis C treatment outcomes. Most doctors will not consider starting a drinker on treatment until they have been abstinent for 6 months or more. 

The Use of Illegal Drugs in Hepatitis CPatients

Several studies have reported that illicit drug users can be safely and effectively treated for Hepatitis C. Cure rates are similar to those of non-users. For those who have recently stopped using intravenous drugs, the delivery method of Peg-Interferon can sometimes be a problem. Some of the pharmaceutical companies package the Interferon in such a way that the use of a syringe is needed. There IS at least one manufacturer that uses a Redi-Pen instead of a syringe, making the injection easier to do without the flashbacks of former drug use. If you have had a problem with IV drug use, please ask your doctor to prescribe the Peg-Interferon that comes in the Redi-Pen.

The decision on whether or not to treat someone who is using illicit drugs depends on the individual. Some people who are drug users or recent drug users can manage Hepatitis C treatment, while others might want to wait until they have their drug use behind them and they are in a more stable environment. Many doctors are concerned that IV drug users will become reinfected with Hepatitis C after being treated and cured. This has happened and the fear is a valid one. Some people, however, have taken their Hepatitis C diagnosis as a reason to change their lives for the better. They are proud to say they have cleared the virus and become clean and sober. 

To Touch on the Subject of Marijuana Use

The use of marijuana can be harmful to people with Hepatitis C. Daily marijuana use increases fat buildup in liver cells which can worsen liver scarring. Researchers have found that daily users are more likely to have serious liver damage than occasional users or non-users. However, because marijuana is actually helpful in managing some of the side-effects of treatment, modest cannabis users were actually more likely to complete HCV treatment and be cured.