After many years of drug use, Ambrose was diagnosed with hepatitis C while serving time in prison. In this blog, he shares his experiences and the importance of getting tested and treated.
My drug use began in my childhood.
I sniffed gas and drank alcohol from a very early age and eventually progressed onto smoking cannabis when I was 13.
Before long I was taking amphetamines, LSD and ecstasy. I loved the rave scene and I thought it was all a bit of harmless fun. I started taking tranquilizers to help with the comedowns from the uppers. That was when the harmless fun spiralled into addiction.
Growing up in Hull, the opioid Temgesic were readily available because that’s where it was manufactured. We would crush them up and sniff them. Then in the early 1990s harm minimisation workers started giving syringes out on the streets and the older kids would inject Temgesic instead. It wasn’t before long I had a go myself. I held my arm out and was injected by one of the older kids. I had no idea how to do it so just went along with it.
Having tried so many different drugs, it’s hard to know at what point I contracted hepatitis C. We shared needles, filters, water, and spoons; it could have happened anywhere.
Shortly after this, I was sent to prison for the first time and while I was away a lot of my friends started using heroin. By the time I came out, a couple of them had died from doing so.
This really opened my eyes and I tried my hardest to stay away from class-A drugs. I walked a different path for five years, settling down and having two kids.
Sadly, this relationship broke down when my drug and alcohol use started to spiral out of control again. I was snorting cocaine, taking pills, and drinking nearly every day. I didn’t realise at the time but hepatitis C can also be passed on by sharing notes or tubes for snorting cocaine. Before long I was injecting any drug I could get my hands on and sharing equipment and paraphernalia without a care in the world.
In 2007 I was back in prison. This was the first time I was tested for hepatitis C antibodies. The test was positive.
I’m so glad that I went through treatment. Loads of positive things have happened in my life as a result of being treated.
It was explained to me that I would need to have another test because up to 1 in 5 people clear the virus from their bodies naturally so more had to be done to discover if I was currently positive.
All of this information went totally over my head. I felt dirty and worried about having a life-threatening condition.
I decided not to have the second test – hiding away in my addiction instead. When I left prison I didn’t tell anyone that I might have hepatitis C. I felt too much guilt and shame.
It wasn’t until two years later when I finally had the PCR test that it was confirmed that I had hepatitis C. It was the diagnosis I had dreaded but deep down I had known all along.
After numerous appointments at the local hospital I started a course of treatment called Interferon. I had heard a lot of bad things about the side effects of this treatment but was so desperate to clear my hepatitis C that I started the treatment anyway. The side effects were as terrible as people had said and I fell of the treatment and back into addiction for a further five years.
This failed attempt at treatment and the side effects I suffered were enough to put me off ever looking at being treated again. But then in 2016, I started to hear about a new treatment and people were saying that the side effects were a lot less severe. The success rate was 95%. This pricked my ears up but I still didn’t attempt to look at treatment as my previous attempt had put me off.
In January 2017 I went into rehab and have been in recovery ever since. In 2018 I finally got treated with the new medication. I had absolutely no side effects and all I had to do was remember to take a tablet every day for eight weeks. Just weeks after completing treatment I started to feel like I had more energy and felt less lethargic.
I’m so glad that I went through treatment. Loads of positive things have happened in my life as a result of being treated. I now work for The Hepatitis C Trust and help others access treatment. I am still moving forward in my life and growing into the person I was always meant to be.
If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, it is so important that you get treated as soon as possible. Any delay puts your liver at risk of irreversible damage. Treatment is quick, easy and will improve your health. Get started today!