The drug-abuse epidemic has caused widespread problems in Florida. As president of the Hepatitis Education Awareness and Liver Support (H.E.A.L.S.) Group of the South, one of the problems I encounter is the increasing number of drug users contracting hepatitis C due to the sharing of needles.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common chronic blood-borne disease, accounting for a large percentage of chronic liver disease. It’s a leading cause of death in Florida. At least 60 percent of HCV cases are caused by injection drug use, the CDC says.
In Florida, the number of cases of HCV increased 133 percent between 2009 and 2013. There’s no doubt this is linked to the increased rate of drug abuse.
We need to increase awareness around the issue of needle sharing and implement more tools to fight against users injecting drugs in the first place. One preventative measure is making available opioids with abuse-deterrent properties (OADP), which are prescription painkillers that are nearly impossible to melt and inject.
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Because opiate use accounts for a large percentage of injection drug use, OADPs could help to limit the HCV cases and have been proven to curb abuse.
I call upon Florida’s lawmakers to adopt OADP in 2016 to fight drug abuse and the spread of HCV, which will save lives.
Pam Langford, president, H.E.A.L.S. of the South,