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Recreational Drug and Psychosocial Profile in Chronic Hepatitis C Patients Seeking Antiviral Therapy

Nayana George, Sherrie M. Harrell, Kimberly D. Rhodes, Andrés Duarte-Rojo


Background and aims. Practitioners treating hepatitis C (HCV) provide healthcare to a special population with high rates of substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. We investigated the psychosocial profile in HCV patients and tested what variables affect commencement of antiviral therapy. Material and methods. Recreational drug use (RDU), marijuana (THC), alcohol use, and psychiatric history were initially investigated with a questionnaire prior to history and physical. Following an educational intervention, we reinterrogated patients for RDU and THC use, and revision of initial statement was documented. Variables affecting commencement of antiviral therapy were analysed with logistic regression. Results. Out of 153 patients, 140 (92%) answered the questionnaire. Intervention increased total yield by 6%, however, 39% (11/28) of those initially denying use revised their statement. Drug screening identified 9 more patients with RDU/THC use. Half of patients consuming alcohol were heavy drinkers, and psychiatric disease was identified in 54%. Only 73 (48%) of 139 patients eligible for antivirals received treatment. Multivariable analysis revealed that younger patients (OR = 1.04, 95% CI 1.01-1.08), and those testing positive on drug screen (OR = 0.41, 95% CI 0.19-0.92) were less likely to be treated. Denial by insurance and loss to follow-up were the most common reasons for not starting antiviral treatment. Conclusion. Substance abuse is highly prevalent among HCV patients, and it is difficult to tell prior from current users. Integral care of HCV patients should include a diligent screen for substance abuse and rehabilitation referral, aiming to increase the pool of patients eligible for antiviral therapy. This can only be achieved through a multidisciplinary approach.

Key words. Viral hepatitis., Alcohol., Antiviral denial., Multidisciplinary team., Drug screening.

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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