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Drug use

dirty water Approximatley 50% of intravenous (IV) drug users are thought to be infected with hepatitis C. As this method of drug taking puts potentially infected blood directly into contact with your own, sharing injecting equipment is extremely high risk behaviour. If you have been an IV drug user and shared any injecting equipment (needles, syringes, a spoon, a filter, water) even once, even if it was a long time ago, then you are at significant risk of having contracted the virus.

It is not only IV drug users who are at risk from contracting HCV. Other forms of drug use, in particular the sharing of rolled bank notes or straws to snort powders through pose a risk of transmission. This is because the lining of the nose is very thin and fed with a rich supply of blood. A drug such as Cocaine is very corrosive to this lining.

As a result traces of infected blood, often too small for the eye to see, can lurk on banknotes and straws. While there have been no properly documented cases, in theory the risk is significant.

The risk is much lower than sharing IV equipment though, because it is not such an efficient method of transmission.

Clearly if you have damaged nasal membranes and have shared straws or notes with a known IV drug user then the risk is higher. Also, if you share straws or notes frequently, then you increase the risk.

Click on the images on the left for a brief description of each risk