CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News UpdateNEW YORK: Hepatitis C on Rise Due to Heroin Use
By Emily Guggenmos
July 26, 2013
New York’s Erie County attributes the sharp increase in hepatitis C cases they have recorded since 2006 to needle sharing among heroin users. Many of the cases involve teens and young adults.
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein stated, "We found out that a lot of kids are using. They were using heroin, sharing needles." She added that many of the infected youth came into the city from the suburbs to purchase drugs, and sometimes resorted to exchanging sex for drugs if they did not have enough money.
According to the Renaissance Center, an alcohol and drug dependency treatment center, many youth turn to heroin because of the high price of prescription drugs. The center also has seen a major increase in prescription drug use among their 12–20-year-old patients, from 15 percent using to 75 percent throughout the last 15 years. "Heroin use has skyrocketed and it's not just right now; it’s been going on and we are seeing it much more with the kids. We are seeing more needle use with the kids," said program supervisor Jodie Altman.
Evergreen Health Services reported that 9,000 people currently participate in its needle exchange program. Service providers also have noted an increase in young adults from the suburbs. "Those kids are taking 10 needles out of here for four kids for the next week. That's not enough needles. So we know there is sharing going on," said Brendan Orrange, a harm prevention counselor at Evergreen.