Drug abuse and addiction have been closely linked with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. Although injection drug use is well known in this regard, the role that non-injection drug abuse plays more generally in the spread of HIV is less recognized.
- Injection drug use. People typically associate drug abuse and HIV/AIDS with injection drug use and needle sharing. Injection drug use refers to when a drug is injected into a tissue or vein with a needle. When injection drug users share “equipment”—such as needles, syringes, and other drug injection paraphernalia—HIV can be transmitted between users. Other infections—such as hepatitis C—can also be spread this way. Hepatitis C can cause liver disease and permanent liver damage.
- Poor judgment and risky behavior. Drug abuse by any method (not just injection) can put a person at risk for contracting HIV. Drug and alcohol intoxication affect the way a person makes decisions and can lead to unsafe sexual practices, which puts them at risk for getting HIV or transmitting it to someone else.
- Biological effects of drugs. Drug abuse and addiction can affect a person’s overall health, making them more susceptible to HIV or, in people with HIV, worsen the progression of HIV and its consequences, especially in the brain. For example, research has shown that HIV causes more harm to nerve cells in the brain and greater cognitive damage among methamphetamine abusers than among people with HIV who do not abuse drugs. In animal studies, methamphetamine has been shown to increase the amount of HIV in brain cells.
- Drug abuse treatment. Since the late 1980s, researchers found that if you treat drug abuse you can prevent the spread of HIV. Drug abusers in treatment stop or reduce their drug use and related risk behaviors, including drug injection and unsafe sexual practices. Drug treatment programs also serve an important role in getting out good information on HIV/AIDS and related diseases, providing counseling and testing services, and offering referrals for medical and social services.
Cleabrook Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania understand the link between HIV and drug abuse and thus offer ways to prevent and fix the problem. Since 1972, the renowned Clearbrook Treatment Centers have been providing effective treatment programs for adults and adolescents who suffer from alcoholism and/or chemical dependency. Clearbrook’s rehabilitation program is based upon the belief that alcoholism and chemical dependency is a primary disease and that the suffering addict and his or her family members deserve immediate help.