DRUG ABUSE/ADDICTION

DRUG ABUSE/ADDICTION
Illicit drug use influences in some way almost 50 percent of all HIV exposures. It also interferes with HIV medications and safer sex practices.

Here's the deal: If you have HIV and you want to live longer, taking mind-altering substances is probably not the path you want to pursue. If you have HIV and you don't want to live as long as possible, hey, continue taking drugs. Knock yourself out. I've seen too many people with HIV died quickly using this thought process and continuing their drug use.

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE ARE LINKS TO PEOPLE'S PERSONAL STORIES OF ADDICTION AND HIV. WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THESE PEOPLE FOR THEIR COURAGE AND HONESTY ABOUT THEIR ADDICTIONS.

If your goal is to live longer, here's a few reasons why you should worry about what drugs you're putting into your body:

* such substances result in impaired thinking, which can lead to further health risks

* they put stress on the body which is already under stress and attack by the HIV virus

* they greatly reduce your chance of success with HIV treatment and medications

Addiction starts with a genetic tendency in a lot but not all cases. First time drug use is a choice and preventable behavior. However, drug addiction is a disease and the result of biochemical responses.



People use drugs to feel good (sensation seeking) or to feel better (self medicating). The sensation seekers are looking for a novel or exciting experience. The self medicating are attempting to escape life conditions such as poverty, lack of self esteem, peer pressure, or using them to treat anxiety or depression.

HIV medications and recreational drugs (including alcohol) have something in common: both are processed our of your blood stream by your liver. But your liver can only do so much at one time.

Overload it and both prescribed and recreational drugs can build up to dangerous levels in your blood stream. This can lead to overdose or other dangerous conditions such as a heart attack, stoke or coma. In general, protease inhibitors Norvir (Ritonavir), Crixivan (Indinavir), Viracept (Nelfinavir) and Fortovase (Saquinavir) and a few other medications used in HIV treatment Ketoconazole and Itraconacole (Sporanox) (both used to treat skin fungus infections), slow down the action of certain enzymes found in the liver. These enzymes allow the liver to filter specific drugs from your blood stream and out of your body. With fewer enzymes available, both prescribed medications and recreational drugs can build up to toxic levels. This toxic build up can cause mild or severe health problems.

The following sections under DRUG ABUSE/ADDICTION contain stories from people with HIV about their drug use or addiction, it's influence on their lives and health, and it's effect on their HIV virus and status. To read their stories, please click on the links at the bottom of the page. I applaud their courage and honesty and their desire to help others (whether HIV+ or HIV-) out there struggling with the same addiction issues they have been through. They are hoping that by sharing their stories, it will help someone else by preventing drug abuse/addiction, HIV infection and/or helping others who are already infected or addicted.

For those of you wanting help, please contact your local substance abuse center or rehab center. Some of the larger cities have specialized drug and alcohol abuse programs for people with HIV. Take the first step to a healthier you.