Drugs and alcohol

Without doubt, the most effective measure anyone infected with hepatitis C can take to slow down disease progression is to avoid drinking alcohol.

The incidence of HCV among people who are heavy consumers of alcohol (e.g. men that consume 4-5 alcoholic drinks a day) is very high. A recent report indicated that the incidence of hepatitis C is seven times higher among alcoholics than in the general population.

Research has clearly shown that the severity of liver disease in HCV sufferers is much higher among those who consume alcohol. This has been seen in rates of fibrosis, the development of cirrhosis, the incidence of liver cancer and finally in survival rates. Whether it is safe to consume any alcohol is uncertain. Physicians caring for patients infected with hepatitis C usually advise them to abstain from alcohol entirely.

A report appearing in Alcohol Clinical Expert observed a more rapid development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in alcoholic patients with chronic hepatitis C. The risk of development of hepatocellular carcinoma in alcoholics with cirrhosis was 8.3 times higher than non-alcoholic patients.

There also appears to be a relationship between alcohol consumption and hepatitis C viral loads. The viral load tends to rise in proportion to alcohol consumption, suggesting that alcohol has some effect on hepatitis C replication.

Response to antiviral treatment is also affected by alcohol consumption. Several studies have shown a decreased rate of sustained viral response in people who drink alcohol compared to those who do not.

Recreational drugs

Almost all recreational drugs are processed by and are toxic to the liver. Some are more toxic than others, but all will stress your liver. The likelihood is they will contain impurities which are also toxic. In general, injecting drugs is more dangerous as it bypasses the filtering system of the stomach. 

In addition to the active ingredients in recreational drugs there may also be other, unspecified and unknown ingredients such as talcum powder and flour as well as other ground drugs. The effect that these substances may have on the liver is difficult to assess.

If you want to stop using recreational drugs, there are places where you can get help. If you don't, you may want to consider trying to reduce the harm they do.

Places to get help

If you have decided that you want to make some changes to your lifestyle but feel that a little help or support may be useful there are a number of avenues you could consider. Some may be able to provide help directly, while others will be able to refer you to an appropriate person or organisation for help.

You might find  an organisation that can offer you help on our useful links page.