“It is caused by increased IV drug usage. It is absolutely terrible, but IV drug use is the No. 1 risk factor for hepatitis C,” said Portsmouth Health Department Nurse Lisa Roberts of the Scioto County Prescription Drug Action Team. “Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that is chronic. There is no cure.”
“Scioto County is ground zero for hepatitis C and for narcotics distribution for the entire state,” Roberts said. “Then, if you look at the top 10 counties for hepatitis C, they’re all southern Ohio rural counties. That’s something you did not see 10 years ago. That was something you heard of in big cities — Cleveland, Columbus, it was from heroin use. Now it has become rural because of oxycodone injections.
According to the Pathology of Drug Abuse, oxycodone is not only being taken orally, but is being taken intravenously, which leads to Scioto County’s high rate of hepatitis C.
Many drugs can be injected intravenously. The drugs themselves may have the major effect of impairment of mental function, but the route of administration can have serious complications. Injection of drugs with needles that are not sterile leads to the potential for a wide variety of infections. Such infections include: human immunodeficiency virus (the causative agent for AIDS), viral hepatitis (particularly hepatitis B and C), and bacterial infections.
“And they are young,” Roberts said. “They are child-bearing age. They’re young; they are under 30. And that will set them up for liver cancer. With their medical card they have the life-long expense of hepatitis C, infections, and they can pass it on to their children. The cost of hepatitis C infection could be a million dollars.”
Roberts is part of the newly formed Scioto County Prescription Drug Action Team, known as “The ‘A’ Team.”
The Ohio Department of Health has asked local health departments in areas of particular affliction to take the lead in identifying root causes within their communities, and to assess and implement the solutions that are necessary to turn the prescription drug abuse problem around.
“This group is working very closely with state and federal authorities, as well as legislators, to bring about the permanent change and long-term solutions that are necessary to legitimize pain care and to assure access to quality care for legitimate patients, while reducing and eliminating access to dangerous drugs for the purpose of diversion and profit within the community.”
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org