Hepatitis C

A simplified diagram of the Hepatitis C virus ...

Replication cycle of the Hepatitis C virus

Once known as Hepatitis Non A Non B, Hepatitis C has been discussed a great deal in the using community over the last 20 years. Here, BP goes behind the ‘Hep C test’ where many of us once stopped, discovering why further tests are so important in getting to the bottom of your own Hep C diagnosis. There is a lot to know about when it comes to your own virus and then can be even more to consider when it comes to deciding if and when you’re going to start treatment. Especially, when, in 2015 we stand at the helm of a whole range of very effective HCV drugs and the word ‘cure’ is on every pharmaceutical companies lips.

In the last issue, BP ‘introduced’ the liver, briefly discussing what it does and how it does it. This issue, we want to look more closely at a virus that has affected the livers of an estimated 215,000 – 600,000 people in the UK alone, 170 million people worldwide with some 3 million more joining the global ranks each year. BP wanted to find some straightforward answers to some essential questions on Hepatitis C and what you may want to consider if you have been diagnosed Hep C (HCV) positive. (BP will look into treatments for HCV next issue).

Hepatitis C is?…

The actual word “hepatitis’ means inflammation or swelling of the liver. This can be caused by chemicals, drugs, drinking too much alcohol or by different kinds of viruses. Hepatitis C is just one of a number of hepatitis viruses (including A, B,D, E, G) and they are all completely different from one another. It can be hard to get your bead around just how small viruses really are. HCV is estimated to be 80 nanometers in diameter (around 30 billion would fit on this dot {,} – another reason why handwashing before and after injecting is so important; be especially vigilant if someone injects you after they’ve just had a hit – they could have microscopic particles of blood on their fingers and then may place them on your injection site. HCV is known to be remain active outside the body for some time so wash your hands and tell others to wash theirs! The hepatitis C virus is in fact a group of viruses, similar enough to be called HCV virus, yet different enough to be classified into subgroups.

Genotypes

Several families of hepatitis C have been observed around The world and these are known as genotypes, because they differ in their genetic make up. They arc usually classified as HCV genotype 1 ,or 2, or 3, etc. Some genotypes respond better to treatment than others so it is important to identify your genotype when considering treatment for Hep C..

Subtypes

Within each genotype, there are subtypes. These are classified as HCV subtype la, or Ib, Ic, etc and within a subtype, incredibly minute differences will exist among individual viruses, called quasispecies – several million quasispecies would exist within a subtype.

To read the rest of this BP article, and find out how Hep C can affect you, click here.

Endocarditis

Heart diagram with labels in English. Blue com...

Image via Wikipedia

BP takes a long hard look at INFECTIVE ENDOCARDITIS, a potentially life-threatening infection of the heart valve. Mainly caused by bacteria entering the skin through injecting, IE can be extremely unpleasant and has a nasty habit of ironing you out completely if left untreated. Know the signs & symptoms.

Although relatively uncommon in comparison to most health problems intravenous drug users encounter, it is extremely important for us to be aware of infective endocarditis (IE) for several reasons:

First of all, Infective Endocarditis has a high mortality rate, and almost always kills the patient if left untreated;

Secondly, it is often preventable. Knowledge of the symptoms of IE, early diagnosis and correct manage­ment are what makes all the difference to your recovery.

And thirdly, a hygienic injecting regime is crucial when avoiding the types of bacteria that cause endocarditis.

In most cases, these organisms are streptococci (“strep”), staphylococci (“staph”) or members of other species of bacteria that normally live on body surfaces, entering the bloodstream through a break in the skin, as happens through injecting,

What is it?

Explaining what endocarditis is requires a little translation of the name; endo- means inside, -card- refers to the heart (like ‘cardiac’) and the -itis bit signifies a process of inflammation. Combining all three gives you an inflammation of the inside of the heart, usually caused by an infection, but occasionally by a fungus.

To read the rest of the article (which appeared in Black Poppy Issue 8) click here

Deep Vein Thrombosis – DVT

Blood clot diagram (Thrombus)

Blood Clot

Most of us at one time or another, have probably either known someone with DVT, or been unfortunate enough to end up with one of those ‘clots from hell’ ourselves. Deep Vein Thrombosis or thrombophlebitis as it is sometimes known, is a painful and serious condition and over the last twenty years in particular, drug users have ended up losing limbs, their health and even their lives because of it.

As the Government continues to skimp on providing access to better alternatives to drug treatments, users continue to shoot up substitute substances, often becoming addicted to those as well. Drug users may also have the added problems of their medical treatment often being, how shall we say, ‘less than satisfactory’ and so may miss out on important, even life saving information. So, what is DVT, what’s the treatment, how do you avoid it and if you’ve got DVT – how can you look after yourself with it. This IS NOT something you can sort out yourself. If you think you may have DVT you must see a doctor and in a moment we’ll tell you why.

What is Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Basically, it means the blockage of a deep vein by a blood clot (called a thrombus or embolus if it is some other foreign material that has caused the blockage), usually localised around the deep veins in the calf but it can extend into the deep veins of the thigh and even beyond, particularly for drug users who inject in the groin. The bigger/more extensive the clot, the more serious the condition becomes. A clot can grow in size and not only block other veins but bits of it can break off and travel or ‘fly’ through the venous system, landing in potentially life threatening areas like the lung, causing difficulty in breathing (becoming fatal if massive) the brain, the blood supply gets cut off and brain cells starve and die producing stokes, the heart causing heart attacks, or even moving towards the spine causing serious infection. It can also occur in the portal vein which conveys blood to the liver. Along with deep veins, the venous system also has superficial or smaller thinner veins which can also become blocked by clots and while this can be associated with DVT, rarely are the two systems blocked at the same time.

If you’d like to read the rest of this article from Black Poppy magazine, click here.

Clostridium

Remember the news that seems to pop up each year concerning contaminated heroin? Dozens of injecting drug users have died over the years from contaminated heroin containing the bactrium Clostridium. And while it is still reasonably rare – it DOES HAPPEN with reasonable regularity and we see no reason why such a bacteria would stop any time soon. There are things you can do to keep aware of it though. Be sure to check out info on Anthrax as well (being another emerging poison affecting injecting drug users – and it seems heroin smokers as well.)

If you are an intravenous or intramuscular injector – this concerns you.

The bacteria (Clostridium) has been present in a few batches of contaminated heroin over the last few years, which appeared to particularly affect people who either injected into the muscle, skin-popped, or who missed a vein when injecting. Tragically, around 35 drug users have died as a result so far.

Over the last 10 years, various outbreaks have occurred affecting drug users in Dublin, Glasgow and London as they began turning up in surgeries and hospitals, exhibiting very similar symptoms to each other. It was initially thought that the same batch of heroin had been ‘retrieved’, mixed with different gear to disguise the ‘look’ and put back out on the street for re-sale.

This was a Black Poppy leaflet, to read the rest, click here.

Constipation (Drug/Diet Induced)

Stomach colon rectum diagram.

Image via Wikipedia

The longer lasting Life Of A Constipated Tom Tit – What Can You Do About Drug/Diet Induced Constipation

It’s a scary feeling…….That large plate of spaghetti bolognese from 5 days ago is swimming around in your bowels, fighting for space alongside 7 bowls of cornflakes, a packet of custard creams, 60 vinegar-soaked chips, 2 cheeseburgers, various chocolate bars and a massive Indian curry. Your stomach’s swelling by the hour and you feel like you’re just about to give birth-but you’ve swallowed 5 laxatives and plugged in a suppository and still nothing. What do you do?

Those of us who have taken a bite out of the ‘drug misuse’ apple know that it doesn’t always come out at the other end in a quiet or comfortable fashion. Some heavy users can go 2-3 even 4 weeks without a trip to the loo and if you’re a working girl (or boy) having sex with a chock-a-block bowel can be most unpleasant. We’ve all heard of the advice, ‘fresh air, plenty of exercise and lots of fresh fruit an’ veg’. Well you might get the exercise running around chasing your gear (- it’s still exercise), but the fresh air – fruit an’ veg stuff isn’t always so easy and besides, a big enough smack or methadone habit can constipate the healthiest person.

Prevention really is the best cure, particularly for those who are susceptible to bowel troubles. Using the odd laxative or suppository is okay, just don’t go mad doing it. Using them over a long period of time is seriously bad news, eventually your sewage system will pack up altogether. It helps to know a bit about your bodily functions in order for it to receive the right attention. (There are no particularly palatable words for faeces, shit, excreta, pooh, stools, waste, pony, tom tit etc so we will mix and match, okay? )

The Journey Traveled…..

When your food reaches its final stage of digestion in the small intestine, it has become a thick, watery liquid. It is moved along its way by the continuous contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles (peristalsis). The surrounding large intestine or colon absorbs this liquid into its walls, feeding blood vessels and maintaining peristalsis. Whatever waste remains will then become your shit. For various reasons, the drugs we take, stress, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the intestinal muscles slow down and bacteria from the waste gets absorbed into the bloodstream leaving your system toxic.

The degree of firmness of your faeces depends on its length of time passing though the gut – the longer the journey, the more water is absorbed back into the bloodstream, leaving your stools dried out. You end up which a pooh that takes longer to move along its passage – becoming constipating. (Charming!!)

The more sluggish the gut, the firmer the stools. Headaches, oily skin and hair, bloating and congestion of the nose, throat and lungs result as well as dried out stools. Methadone user’s will know all about dried up, sheep style pooh! Although constipation may be considered trivial, each year around one tenth of the population of the UK take laxatives regularly with over 7 million visiting their GPs.

Tried and Tested Tips (for moving that tom tit!)

When your food reaches its final stage of digestion in the small intestine, it has become a thick, watery liquid. It is moved along its way by the continuous contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles (peristalsis). The surrounding large intestine or colon absorbs this liquid into its walls, feeding blood vessels and maintaining peristalsis. Whatever waste remains will then become your shit. For various reasons, the drugs we take, stress, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the intestinal muscles slow down and bacteria from the waste gets absorbed into the bloodstream leaving your system toxic.

To read the rest of this article which appeared in Black Poppy,Magazine, click here.

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