The drugs that dare not speak their name: Injecting and other illicit drug use during treatment for hepatitis C infection

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Exploration of patients` illicit drug use during treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is largely absent from the clinical literature. This paper explores injecting and other illicit drug use among people receiving interferon-based treatment for HCV infection, from the perspective of one group of health professionals. Data are presented from a qualitative study of six health professionals responsible for managing HCV treatment regimens at three major metropolitan hospitals across Sydney, Australia. During semi-structured in-depth interviews, participants discussed patients` use of injected and non-injected illicit drugs while coping with a demanding therapeutic regimen. Health professionals highlighted the socially conservative environment of healthcare and its negative perceptions of illicit drug users. Also discussed are the management of people who inject during treatment and the efficacy of cannabis to reduce side effects. The findings of this study indicate that while the health professionals adopted a harm reduction approach to patients` illicit drug use during HCV treatment, information regarding the risks and benefits of illicit drug use is silenced in this context. While ever prohibition remains Australia`s illicit drug policy this situation appears unlikely to change. Research which investigates the extent of illicit drug use during HCV treatment, the risks and benefits associated with their use in this context, and the harms of perpetuating a duplicitous healthcare system is required. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Hopwood, Max
Treloar, Carla
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