Avoiding Drugs and Alcohol
These days, some people receiving care for HIV end up dying from alcohol use, COPD (lung changes from smoking) and overdose.
- People diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can live longer. Using drugs, alcohol and smoking can affect long-term quality of life.
- Drug and alcohol use are major factors in the spread of HIV infection.
- People with HIV are more likely to smoke than healthy people.
- In people with HIV, smoking can make it more difficult to fight off serious infections.
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Answers to Common Questions
Beside the fact that drugs and alcohol use are a major factor in the spread of HIV infection, they may have unsafe interactions with antiretroviral treatment (ART). Also, it can affect your ability to take your cART as prescribed, which is crucial with fighting the virus.
If you have HIV and you shared equipment (e.g., needles) with another HIV+ person, there is a chance you may become superinfected with the virus, which may require different treatment. This would make treatment more difficult and you could develop resistance to medications, which could block the effectiveness of your treatment.
If you're taking anti-HIV medications, adherence is important for a healthier life. Injecting drugs is associated with nonadherence to the medications.
Alcohol can damage your liver, especially when you have HIV and Hepatitis C. Also, it can have serious side effects when combined with antiretroviral therapy.
Thinking about quitting is the first step. To achieve your goal of getting clean, you have to be ready. Make sure you're doing it for yourself, not for a significant other, parents or court order. Go to drug treatment and find a support group. Quitting drugs, alcohol and tabacco products is not an easy road, but if you're convinced this is what you want to do, you can do it.
If you don't feel ready to stop using, you could think in other terms, such as not sharing equipment (e.g., cookers, filters, tourniquets, or rinse water). Also, using clean needles reduces the spread of HIV, preventing a superinfection in the case of a person already infected with HIV.
See Getting Help from the Needle Exchange Programme.
Yes, smoking could make you sicker. It stops normal lung function in healthy people. If you're HIV+, smoking can make it more difficult to fight off serious infections. People with HIV are more likely to smoke than healthy people.
Nicotine replacement therapy is available and works by weaning your body off nicotine, minimizing withdrawal symptoms and cravings that many people experience when they stop. Experts say that increasing your daily physical activity can help with reducing some withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety.
Smoking Cessation Counseling is available for patients who want to break the habit. This service is free for Owen Clinic patients. For more information, call Joe Montanez at 619-543-3453.
It's crucial that you're honest with your doctors about your health habits, diet, behaviors and addictions in order for them to help you stay healthy and provide you with best care available. The more your doctors know about you, the better advice they can give you. Don't be embarrassed, and trust your doctor. Remember, there's risk for drug interactions and dangerous side-effects.
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