Drug and alcohol misuse can increase the risk of contracting HIV. When people misuse substances, they are more likely to make poor choices and do things that will put them at risk for transmitting or getting a dangerous disease. While there are some obvious ways to do this, others are more subtle. The exposure may also vary according to the type of substance being used.
HIV and Addiction Risk Factors
It is a common misconception that the only way to spread HIV through substance misuse is by sharing needles with an infected person. This is one way, but not the only one. There are both direct and indirect HIV risk factors.
A direct HIV risk factor involves exposure to a contaminated needle or drug injection supplies. When users share needles, there are traces of blood that could be transferred. Even when a clean needle is used, other materials that are shared, such as solutions to dissolve drugs or cotton balls could act as a transfer agent.
When under the influence of alcohol or drugs, people often make poor decisions that will put them at risk. While the use of the drug itself is not directly related to HIV risk, the resulting behavior is. One of the top causes of HIV infection linked to drug and alcohol misuse is unprotected sex or using a condom incorrectly.
Commonly Misused Substances Linked to HIV Risk
- Alcohol. This is particularly the case with binge drinking, which can lead to risky sexual behavior.
- Opioids. People who misuse opioids have a higher risk of infection due to needle sharing and risky sexual behavior.
- Methamphetamines. Meth is also associated with risky sexual behavior, and it is a drug that can be injected.
- Crack cocaine. Some people that misuse crack cocaine will use unsafe behaviors to gain access to more of the drug.
- Inhalants. Using inhalants like amyl nitrite has been linked to risky sexual behaviors and HIV transmission.
How to Reduce the Risk of HIV Infection
One of the best ways to avoid contracting HIV is to stop or cut back on the use of addictive substances. If you are unable to control your use of these drugs, it may be time to seek qualified help through an addiction treatment center.
You can also lower your risk by avoiding injecting drugs. If you do inject drugs, only use new, sterile needles and never share them. Always use sterile water to prepare drugs and carefully dispose of needles once used.
When having sex, always use a condom, and avoid having sex when under the influence. Get regular tests for HIV.
Get Professional Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder
Substance misuse is associated with an increased risk of contracting HIV as well as a reduced effectiveness of some HIV/AIDS treatment. In many cases, substance misuse is a causal factor for HIV infection.
If you have a substance use disorder, there are several effective treatments that you can access at The Recovery Village. Many addiction treatments can also be given simultaneously with antiretroviral therapies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Effective addiction treatment makes this a preventable illness and reduces the risk of other serious health consequences.
Contact The Recovery Village now to speak with one of our knowledgeable addiction specialists about your admissions options.