Overlapping epidemics of alcohol and illicit drug use among HCV-infected persons who inject drugs

Risha Irvin, Geetanjali Chander, Oluwaseun Falade-Nwulia, Jacquie Astemborski, Laura Starbird, Gregory D. Kirk, Mark S. Sulkowski, David L. Thomas, Shruti H. Mehta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol use in people who inject drugs (PWID) with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection accelerates liver disease progression. This paper describes the prevalence and associated correlates of alcohol use among HCV antibody positive PWID. Methods: In a large cohort of HCV antibody positive PWID (N = 1623) followed from 2005 to 2013, we characterized alcohol use using the AUDIT-C. We used multivariable logistic regression with generalized estimated equations to examine socio-demographic, clinical, and substance use correlates of alcohol use. Results: At their initial visit, 41% reported no, 21% reported moderate, and 38% reported heavy alcohol use. The odds of moderate and heavy alcohol use increased with greater intensity of substance use represented by a composite summary variable which ranged from 0 to 3 substances (street-acquired prescription drugs, non-injection cocaine/heroin, and injection drugs) used. Compared to those who used no drugs, those who used 3 substances had 3.71 odds (95% CI: 3.07–4.48) of moderate alcohol use and 3.65 odds (95% CI: 3.20–4.16) of heavy alcohol use. Conclusions: The prevalence of moderate/heavy alcohol use is high among HCV antibody positive PWID and occurs frequently in combination with other drug use. This may contribute to progressive liver fibrosis thus limiting the gains achieved from HCV cure. Public health interventions need to address the overlapping epidemics of HCV, alcohol use, and other substance use in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-61
Number of pages6
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Alcohol use
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Injection drug use
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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