Hepatitis C treatment program at Avenues Recovery

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The Connection Between Hep C and Addiction 

Perhaps more than any other illness, there is a powerful connection between Hepatitis C and substance use disorder.

Hepatitis C is a strictly bloodborne infection, and primarily transmitted through unsanitary injection practices and sharing needles and syringes – a phenomenon by far the most common among illicit drug users, who often lack sufficient or sterile supplies to support their drug use. Because of this, there are disproportionately high numbers of Hepatitis C infection among drug users.  

Unfortunately, timely detection and treatment are rare in this vulnerable population due to the difficulties they face in accessing routine testing and quality healthcare. Diagnosing Hepatitis C requires a blood test with advanced panels to determine the presence of the virus, the specific genotype, the viral load (the amount of virus present in the bloodstream), and whether or not the individual has combated the infection on their own. The test results can take a few weeks to return, and the infected individual must then remain dedicated to the treatment regimen for an extended period of time (up to 6 months) in order for the infection to be completely cured. When a person is addicted to a substance, the likelihood of all these circumstances coming together is quite slim.  

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Addiction and Hepatitis C Treatment: A Golden Opportunity 

Although the addiction and Hep C relationship seems bleak, some enterprising and compassionate addiction professionals are thinking creatively in an attempt to change the narrative.  

A few forward – thinking professionals in addiction rehab facilities have taken holistic treatment to the next level. They witnessed streams of individuals struggling with substance use disorder enter their doors, knowing that a great percentage of them were likely suffering from Hep C as well. The knowledge that few – if any – of them would receive proper treatment for this disease was disheartening. And these innovators came to the realization that a rehab facility is in fact the ideal place to treat Hepatitis C.  Here you have an entire population of vulnerable or infected individuals, in one place, for an extended period of time - could there be any greater opportunity to test and treat all at once? This somewhat radical thought was translated into action, and these few but fantastic Hep C treatment programs experienced incredible success. 

Dr. Susan Julius, Regional Medical Director of the Louisiana facilities in the Avenues Recovery network, observed these programs and had a strong desire to bring them to Avenues. Her passionate pursuit of excellence for the sake of her clients guided her as always and allowed nothing to stand in her way. The idea was shared with other members of the Avenues community, and an incredible program slowly took root. Avenues Recovery Center partnered with Gilead, one of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical companies, to bring Hep C testing and treatment to their clients.  

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HCV treatment as part of the Avenues Holistic Addiction Treatment Approach 

During the routine evaluations and testing that are performed as part of the standard client intake process, Avenues Recovery’s Louisiana facilities added one small blood test that looks for Hepatitis C. If Hepatitis is discovered, the blood sample undergoes additional testing to identify the genotype, viral load, and other factors. If it is determined that the Hepatitis is still active, the client is then given the option of beginning the simple treatment process for Hep C while attending rehab – effectively killing two birds with one stone. It’s just one pill a day, but the DAA (direct-acting antiviral) medication regimen enjoys a 98% success rate. Clients leave treatment not only empowered with tools to overcome their addiction but cured of Hepatitis C for life. Avenues Recovery Center is now looking to expand these Hepatitis C treatment programs to all of their facilities across the nation. 

Interestingly, treating Hepatitis C while in treatment has been proven to strengthen and enhance recovery, and improve chances of long-term sobriety. How is this so? 

  • When a client is treated and cured of Hep C, they feel incredibly empowered by the victory they have won. They don’t want to contract such a condition ever again, so they will be sure to stay far away from any behaviors or practices that cause Hep C – and their commitment to their recovery is that much stronger.  

  • Additionally, Hep C can cause fatigue, swelling, and many other painful symptoms, but people become desensitized to the pain since they’ve been experiencing it for so long. Once they are cured of Hepatitis C, they discover new reserves of energy, wellness and vitality. Their newfound clear mind and healthy body enable them to truly throw themselves into recovery, and put in the sincere work it takes to succeed. 

  • When addiction and Hepatitis C are treated together, the chances of relapse are considerably lowered.  

Hepatitis C can be a debilitating condition with severe consequences when left untreated. Despite that, testing and treatment are available, and there is always hope for a complete recovery! If you or a loved one are struggling with Hepatitis C in conjunction with a substance addiction, reach out to Avenues Recovery Center today to speak to a knowledgeable addiction specialist who can inform and guide you through

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