What Does Hep C Have To Do With Recovery?
When we say someone is in recovery, what do we mean? What are they in recovery from?
But more accurately, the person is recovering from drug-related harm.
In an important way, recovery means learning how to heal from the harm you have already experienced because of your addiction.
But more than that, it’s about figuring out how to limit or stop harm that is happening to you in your life right now because of your addiction. And it’s about figuring out how to keep from experiencing more harm in the future.
As you learn about Hepatitis C (Hep C), please keep a “recovery mindset.”
Think about Hep C as drug-related harm, and think about how you can keep it from hurting you.
Hep C is preventable!
If you already are living with Hep C, focus on how you can best limit any harmful effects of the virus to you or others.
Your Decisions Determine Your Destiny
You have made a decision today to learn about Hep C, and you can decide to use your knowledge to keep yourself safer.
Recovery is a process. It takes place over time. Recovery includes periods of use and non-use. It’s important to keep your recovery mindset even during times that you are using.
Recovery is about more than whether or not you are using today.
Think about the bigger picture. In the big picture, focusing on keeping yourself safe is even more important when you are using.
As you learn about Hepatitis C today, you can choose to use your knew knowledge to keep yourself safer.
You can choose to keep yourself safer from Hepatitis C today, whether or not you are using today. That is part of what it means to have a safe recovery.
What Is Hepatitis?
“Hepatitis” just means “inflammation of the liver.”
A number of things can cause inflammation of the liver.
Excessive drinking of alcohol can cause hepatitis.
Hepatitis is can also be caused by certain viruses, which are named Hepatitis A, B and C.
You can prevent hepatitis by avoiding excessive drinking, and by not getting infected with Hepatitis A, B or C.
There are vaccines you can get to protect yourself from Hep A and Hep B.
While there is no vaccine for Hep C, there are ways to protect yourself from Hep C too.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a virus.
Over time, the Hep C virus can damage the liver and cause health problems. In some cases, these health problems can be fatal.
Hep C Is Common Among People Who Inject
Hepatitis C is very common among people who inject.
If you are injecting with another person, there is a very good chance that the person you are injecting with has Hep C.
This is why it is so important to learn about how to prevent Hep C infections.
If you don’t have Hep C, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from becoming infected.
If you already have Hep C, it’s important to know how you can avoid infecting others.
Is Hepatitis C Contagious?
Yes, Hepatitis C is contagious. But you can only get Hepatitis C by coming into contact with the blood of an infected person.
You can’t get Hep C through the air from coughing or sneezing. You can’t get Hep C from a bug bite. You can’t get Hep C from casual contact such as drinking from the same cup, hugging, kissing, or shaking hands. And Hep C is not passed through food or water.
US government guidelines say that people living with Hep C should not be excluded from work, school, child care or other settings because of their Hep C. There is no evidence that people get Hep C from restaurant workers, teachers or other service providers without blood to blood contact.
How Can You Tell If Someone Has Hep C?
You can’t tell if someone has Hep C just by looking at them.
People who have Hep C don’t always look sick. This is because it takes Hep C a long time to damage the liver.
People who have Hep C often don’t even know it because they look and feel fine.
Even though someone with Hep C does not look sick or feel sick, they can still pass the Hep C virus to others.
You can’t tell if you have Hep C unless you get a Hep C test, along with any necessary follow up testing.
How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?
Hep C is spread through contact with infected blood.
To avoid becoming infected with Hep C, you should avoid contact with blood.
Hep C is usually spread through contact with infected blood during injection drug use.
You should avoid contact with another person’s blood at all times, but especially while injecting.
You should always help others avoid contact with your blood at any time, but especially while injecting.
Hep C can be passed when blood from an infected person enters the body of another person.
When people are injecting, blood is present. There may be small amounts of blood present that you can’t even see, but it will still be enough to infect someone.
You can become infected with Hep C if blood from an infected person gets into your body when you inject.
This can happen when people share injection supplies like syringes, cookers or spoons, cottons, water or drug/water mixes.
This means that to avoid becoming infected with Hep C, you should always use a brand new syringe, cooker and cotton every single time.
You should never share your syringe, cooker or cotton with anyone else.
You should never share water, or drug/water mixes with anyone else.
And you should never dip into the same cooker or spoon as someone else, even with your own needle.
Always use a freshee!
Where Can I Get New, Sterile Syringes?
It’s legal to buy syringes over the counter in many parts of the United States.
Often, your best option is to go to the nearest syringe exchange program. Syringe exchange programs provide free syringes. They can also give you other safer injection supplies like cookers and cottons. And they can also help out with information, advice and practical support.
Never Re-use, Never Share
Don’t reuse your own syringes, cookers or other injection supplies. After they are used once, they are dirty and can cause serious illnesses like septicemia or endocarditis.
Don’t share your syringes, cookers or other injection supplies. Sharing supplies can pass bacteria and viruses like HIV and Hep C from person to person.
Using a syringe, cooker or cotton more than once is not safe. Never reuse or share injection supplies.
Always use brand new injection supplies once, and then safely dispose of them.
How To Clean Used Syringes And Cookers/Spoons With Bleach
If new supplies aren’t available, syringes and cookers should be cleaned with bleach.
Cleaning with bleach is not 100% effective in killing the Hep C virus, but it will greatly reduce your risk of infection.
To bleach a syringe, rinse the syringe inside and out with cool water to loosen and remove as much blood as possible.
Fill syringes with full-strength bleach such as Clorox right out of the bottle. Leave the bleach in the syringe for 2-3 minutes (you can shake it a little if you want to help loosen any dried blood and help make sure the bleach is getting into every crevice).
Squirt the bleach out of the syringe, and then rinse the syringe inside and out again with cool water to make sure you aren’t injecting any bleach.
Remember to dispose of the used bleach and water safely. The water and bleach are mixed with blood that could pose a health risk to others.
You Can’t Bleach Cottons
Cottons or filters can’t be cleaned and should never be reused. Reusing cottons can cause cotton fever and bacterial infections that are sometimes fatal.
Sharing cottons can transmit HIV and Hep C.
Always use a brand new cotton once, and then safely dispose of it.
Always use brand new injection supplies once, and then safely dispose of them.
This means never reuse a syringe, cooker, or cotton.
How To Dispose Of Used Syringes Safely
Put your used syringe and other injection supplies in a sharps container, or in a bottle with a cap on it. Mark the bottle as “sharps” with a marker or sticker before placing it in the household trash.
It feels good to know you are disposing of your used supplies safely!
Can Hepatitis C Live Outside The Body?
Hepatitis C can live outside the body, but only for a limited amount of time. Hep C can live on an exposed surface like a spoon or cooker for days, and in a more protected environment like the inside of a used syringe for weeks.
Can Hepatitis C Be Transmitted Through Saliva?
Hepatitis C can not be transmitted through saliva. Hepatitis C can only be transmitted through blood. Remember, sometimes blood is mixed in with saliva in someones mouth such as when someone has bleeding gums or a cut in their mouth.
Can Hepatitis C Be Transmitted Through Sweat?
Hepatitis C can not be transmitted through sweat. Hepatitis C can only be transmitted through blood.
Can Hepatitis C Be Transmitted Through Urine?
Hepatitis C can not be transmitted through urine. Hepatitis C can only be transmitted through blood.
Can Hepatitis C Be Transmitted To A Baby?
Hepatitis C can be passed from mother to child, but mother to child transmission is relatively uncommon. About 4 percent of infants born to mothers who are living with Hepatitis C become infected with the virus.
Can Hepatitis C Be Sexually Transmitted?
Remember, Hep C is a passed through blood contact only. But this does sometimes happen during sex.
Condoms can help prevent blood contact during sex.
Also, you can reduce your risk of Hep C transmission by avoiding sexual activity if blood is likely to be present.
Blood is more likely to be present if you are having anal sex, rough sex or dry sex. Blood is also more likely to be present if one or both people have open sores on their genitals. Or when a woman is having her period and menstrual blood is present.
More About Hepatitis C Transmission
You can become infected with Hep C if you have contact with infected blood.
This is true even if the amount of blood is too tiny to notice.
You may be able to think of some situations where this might happen.
For example, when people share syringes, dip into the same cooker, or otherwise share injection supplies, blood may be passed from one person to the another.
This could also happen when people share straws or crack pipes (especially if lips are burned, cracked or bleeding). Or, when people share tattoo needles or ink pots. It could happen when people share body piercing needles, or even during a bloody fight.
Always be alert when blood is present. You should avoid any contact with another person’s blood. And you should help other people avoid contact with your blood.
You Are More Likely To Get Hep C If You Already Have An STD
You are at greater risk of becoming infected with Hep C if you already have an STD. This is because some STDs cause sores that may provide a point of entry for Hep C infected blood to get into your body.
Getting certain STDs may also indicate that you are having unprotected sex with people who are themselves at higher risk of Hep C. This increases your chance of getting Hep C.
You Can’t Get Hep C From Yourself
You can’t get Hep C from yourself. You can only get Hep C by coming into contact with infected blood from someone who already has Hep C.
You can’t get Hep C by reusing your own syringe as long as you are the only person who has ever used the syringe, but you can get other infections this way that can sometimes be life threatening, such as septicemia or endocarditis.
Septicemia is a blood infection, and endocarditis is an infection in the heart.
Using injection supplies more than once is not safe.
Always use a freshee!
Methadone Treatment Reduces Hepatitis C Risk
If you are addicted to opiates, methadone treatment will reduce your Hep C risk. This is because methadone is scientifically proven to be the single most effective treatment for opiate addiction.
People who are addicted to opiates and who are in methadone treatment are less like to be injecting than those who are not in treatment, and for this reason are less likely to become infected with Hep C.
Methadone is generally safe for the liver unless the liver is very damaged. You should, of course, consult with your doctor about your own situation.
Suboxone Treatment Reduces Hepatitis C Risk
If you are addicted to opiates, buprenorphine treatment will reduce your Hep C risk. This is because buprenorphine is scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for opiate addiction.
Buprenorphine is the active ingredient in the name brand medications Suboxone, Subutex and Probuphine.
People who are addicted to opiates and who are in buprenorphine treatment are less likely to be injecting than those who are not in treatment, and for this reason are less likely to become infected with Hep C.
Suboxone is generally safe for the liver unless the liver is very damaged. You should always consult with your doctor about your own situation.
Naltrexone Treatment Reduces Hepatitis C Risk
If you are addicted to opiates, naltrexone treatment will reduce your Hep C risk. This is because naltrexone treatment reduces opiate use and the risk for injection drug use.
Naltrexone is the active ingredient in the name brand medications ReVia and Vivitrol. ReVia is naltrexone in pill form. And Vivitrol is an extended release form of naltrexone that allows for once a month dosing. You get a shot in your doctor’s office once a month.
People who are addicted to opiates and who are in naltrexone treatment are less likely to be injecting than those who are not in treatment, and for this reason are less likely to become infected with Hep C.
Naltrexone is generally safe for the liver unless the liver is very damaged. Always make sure you consult with your doctor about your own situation.
What Happens When Someone Becomes Infected With Hep C?
In some cases, people who become infected with Hep C are able to fight it off on their own.
Their immune system destroys all of the virus. They are no longer infected, and they can’t pass the virus to others.
About 25% of people who become infected with Hep C are able to fight it off on their own without medical treatment.
In other cases, people who become infected with Hep C are not able to fight it off on their own.
Their immune system is not able to destroy all of the virus. They remain infected, and they can pass the virus on to others.
This is called chronic infection.
About 75% of people who become infected with Hep C are not able to fight it off on their own, and become permanently infected with Hep C.
The only way they will ever be cured is with medical treatment.
What Happens If You Have A Chronic Hepatitis C Infection?
If your body is not able to fight off Hep C on its own, and you develop a chronic Hep C infection, then you will remain infected with Hep C for life, unless you get medical treatment.
But it’s important to know, that many people with a chronic Hep C infection never suffer any serious health problems from Hep C. This is true even if they don’t get any medical treatment for Hep C.
Some people with chronic Hep C infection do eventually experience serious liver damage and other health problems from Hep C. This is why it is important to see a doctor regularly if you have Hep C, even if you don’t want Hep C treatment. You want your doctor to be able to help you monitor your Hep C to make sure Hep C isn’t damaging your liver.
You should also learn about ways to make it less likely that your Hep C will cause you serious harm in the future.
What Is The Difference Between Acute Hepatitis C Infection And Chronic Hepatitis C Infection?
Acute Hepatitis C infection is the term used to describe the short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone becomes infected with the Hepatitis C virus.
It’s during acute Hep C infection that some people are able to successfully fight off Hep C without medical treatment. If someone does not fight off Hep C on their own during the first 6 months after becoming infected (during the acute phase), then they will remain infected for life unless they get medical treatment.
Only about twenty to thirty percent of people with acute Hepatitis C infection experience any symptoms. Those who do experience symptoms may report fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements, joint pain or jaundice. Symptoms of acute infection, if they appear at all, usually appear around 6 to 7 weeks after infection (but can range from 2 weeks to 6 months).
People who are infected with Hep C can spread the virus even if they don’t have symptoms.
Chronic Hepatitis C infection is the term used to describe the long-term illness that occurs if an infected person is unable to fight off the virus during the acute phase of Hep C infection. Many people live with chronic Hep C infection for a lifetime and never experience serious health problems caused by the infection. Some people do experience serious health problems from chronic Hep C infection over time, such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.
Most people who have chronic Hep C don’t experience any symptoms during the chronic phase of Hep C infection unless the Hep C results in significant damage to the liver.
Anyone Can Get Hep C, You Are Never Immune To Hep C
Some people think that if they already have Hep C, then they don’t need to worry about becoming infected with Hep C because they already have it.
This is wrong. You can become double-infected with Hep C.
Even if you are already infected with one type or strain of Hep C, you can still become infected with another.
There is more than one strain of the Hepatitis C virus. Each one is called a “type” or “genotype.”
You don’t want to be infected with more than one type of Hep C because having more than one type of Hep C may make it more likely that you will experience liver damage, and may make your Hep C infection harder to treat.
You are never immune to Hep C.
Anyone can become infected with Hep C.
Even if you already had Hep C and got rid of it -meaning that either you fought it off on your own, or fought if off with the help of medical treatment -you can still easily become infected again.
You are never immune to Hep C!
Anyone can become infected with Hep C!
Hepatitis C and Alcohol
If you have Hep C, you should avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can be rough on the liver, especially if your liver is already trying to deal with Hep C. Drinking can greatly increase the chances that you will have serious liver damage in the future, and can make it happen much faster.
Get Vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
If you have Hep C, it is important to get vaccinated for Hep A and Hep B. You don’t want your liver to have to deal with more than one kind of hepatitis at a time.
Getting vaccinated for Hep A and Hep B will reduce your risk of liver damage.
Getting vaccinated for Hep A and Hep B can help keep your liver healthy.
It’s a good idea to get vaccinated for Hep A and Hep B –especially if you already have Hep C.
Protect your liver!
Is There A Vaccine For Hepatitis C?
There is no Hepatitis C vaccine. Since there is no Hep C vaccine, the only way to prevent Hep C is to avoid contact with infected blood.
That means never using someone else’s syringe. You should never share injection supplies like syringes, cookers, cottons, ties, water or drug/water mixes.
Always use a freshee!
Can Hepatitis C Be Cured?
Medical treatments are available to treat Hepatitis C.
Hep C treatment works well for many people and many people who get treatment are cured.
But Hep C treatments don’t work for everyone, and some people experience difficult side effects.
Not everyone needs treatment. The only way to know whether or not you need treatment is to see a doctor regularly.
You should see a doctor regularly, even if you don’t want medical treatment for your Hep C. Your doctor can do simple tests to find out how you and your liver are doing. Your doctor can help you learn about whether you should consider treatment, and what your treatment options might be.
New Treatment for Hep C
New Hepatitis C treatments are on the horizon. Medical researchers expect that these new treatments for Hep C will work better with fewer side effects.
Many doctors are recommending that patients wait for these new treatments, unless they need treatment immediately.
What If I Start Hep C Treatment And Decide It’s Not For Me?
If you start Hep C treatment and decide it’s not for you, you can stop treatment.
You can stop Hep C treatment at any time.
Hep C treatments aren’t always easy, and some people get challenging side effects from the medication. If this happens to you, and you decide you want to stop treatment, you can.
Stopping treatment won’t make your Hep C worse than it was before you started treatment.
Stopping treatment won’t prevent you from trying treatment again in the future.
You can stop treatment at any time if you need to.
Do I Have To Get A Liver Biopsy?
Some people are afraid to get a liver biopsy.
A biopsy is a medical test where a small sample of liver tissue is collected for testing using a long needle. In reality, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Most people who have liver biopsy’s say it’s not that bad. Your skin is numbed, it happens fast and other than some soreness for a while, most people say it turned out not to be such a big deal after all.
Don’t let fear of a biopsy keep you away from a doctor or keep you from considering treatment for your Hep C.
You can refuse a biopsy, and still get other tests that can help you and your doctor monitor and take care of your health. And many doctors will treat Hep C even without a liver biopsy.
Should I Get Tested For Hep C?
If you have ever injected, even once, and you don’t know your current Hep C status, it is a good idea to get tested.
It’s important to know whether or not you have Hep C.
The only way to know is to get tested.
If you are injecting on an ongoing basis, it’s a good idea to get tested for Hep C every six months.
What Are My Hep C Testing Options?
Hep C testing is available for free from many syringe exchange programs, or other programs for people who inject. It’s usually anonymous and free.
You can also get tested through your private doctor. Your results will be confidential.
Home test kits are also available.
Hepatitis C Home Test
If you don’t want to go to a community organization or medical provider to get tested for Hep C, you can buy a Hepatitis C home test kit.
If you prefer a home testing option, Recovery Helpdesk recommends buying the Home Access Hepatitis C Check Hep C home test kit, available from Amazon.
The Home Access test is FDA approved, and is as accurate as tests used by doctors.
The test is anonymous. You are only identified by a code number that comes with your kit.
There is a toll-free telephone support number to call to get your test results and to ask questions.
Why Get Tested For Hep C?
If you find out that you are Hep C negative (in other words, not infected), you can take steps to make sure that you remain Hep C free.
You can choose to use brand new syringes and other injection supplies once, and then safely dispose of them.
You can choose to never share syringes or other injection supplies with other people.
You can choose to use a condom when you have sex.
If you find out that you are Hep C positive (in other words, you have been infected), you can get follow up testing to see whether or not you have developed chronic infection.
If you do have a chronic infection, you can get follow up testing that can help you find out whether or not Hep C is causing damage to your liver.
You can see a doctor that specializes in Hep C care and treatment. You can find out ways to stay healthy, even if you are living with chronic Hep C infection. And you can learn about treatment options.
With treatment, many people with chronic infection are cured –especially if treatment begins before the liver is badly damaged.
You can also choose to make sure that you don’t infect others with Hep C.
You Can Choose To Have A Safe Recovery
Remember that you can choose to have a safe recovery.
You can choose to keep yourself safe from Hep C today, whether or not you are using today.
If you are currently injecting, you can choose to always use a freshee.
If you are having sex, you can choose to use a condom.
You can choose to get vaccinated for Hep A and Hep B.
You can choose to get tested for HIV and STDs.
You can choose to seek drug treatment, including treatment with methadone, Suboxone or naltrexone.
You can choose to get tested for Hep C.
And if you are living with Hep C, you can choose to avoid alcohol and see a doctor regularly.
Thank you for reading this far! Have a safe day!