This nation’s opioid epidemic does not discriminate. A majority of people who become addicted to opioids first became exposed to the drugs because of a pain issue that required a prescription painkiller. A new study finds that HIV patients are not only susceptible to opioid addiction but also rarely screened and monitored for opioid misuse or abuse.
Study Finds That HIV Patients Are Rarely Monitored for Opioid Abuse
There has been a resurging outbreak of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis cases that are considered collateral damage of this nation’s opioid crisis. Risky behavior resulting from higher levels of opioid use is creating more new cases of these dangerous and deadly diseases throughout the U.S.
Of particular concern, after prevention, is how people already living with HIV/AIDS are continuing to use and abuse opioids. A new study released in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases finds that HIV patients often are not monitored or assessed for opioid misuse and abuse.
Specifically, the study looked at 165 HIV-positive patients who were also receiving chronic opioid therapy (COT). Among these patients, nearly half (43 percent) received high Current Opioid Misuse Measure (COMM) scores, meaning they had an elevated risk of addiction.
Why Opioid Addiction Could Be an Issue Among HIV-Positive Patients
Some patients become infected with HIV because of chronic pain and opioid abuse. This could have easily begun with the misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers. After HIV infection occurs, patients become even more susceptible to pain issues because of a compromised immune system as well as the possible adverse effects of some of the medication used to treat the disease.
If untreated, HIV can develop into full-blown AIDS. Because HIV affects immune system function, HIV/AIDS patients are at higher risk of certain infections, many of which can be painful. Common infections and diseases associated with HIV include pneumonia, tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, kidney disease, and certain cancers.
Common Monitoring Methods That Could Help HIV Patients
According to the same study, the patients who had the highest satisfaction levels with their care are the ones who received addiction prevention strategies from their healthcare providers. Many in pain management settings are asked to sign an opioid treatment agreement, certifying that they understand the risks of taking these medications.
Patients may also be asked to “promise” in writing that they will not seek opioid medications elsewhere. Some are even given periodic urine tests to verify the level of medication and screen for other drugs. When trust is established with a healthcare provider, there is a greater chance of gaining access to addiction treatment if abuse becomes an issue.
Opioid Addiction Treatment Resources for HIV Patients
HIV and substance use disorders are both complex diseases. The combination of these two can increase health risks for a patient as well as complicate treatment options. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, the best solution is to seek qualified addiction treatment as soon as possible.