Srinagar: A new study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Kashmir has found that the prevalence of Hepatitis C among drug abusers in Kashmir is 72 percent.
According to the study, ‘Seroprevalence of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C; the associated psychiatric comorbidities and stigma among injection drug users in Kashmir: A Hospital-Based, Cross-Sectional Study’, almost 300 patients were subjected to the hepatitis C virus screening.
Of the 300 samples screened at the Drug De-Addiction Centre at SMHS hospital, 72 percent of youngsters between the age group of 21 to 25 years addicted to intravenous drugs were found to have Hepatitis C infection.
Dr Kubra Farooq has conducted the study under the guidance of Dr Yasir Hassan Rather, Professor at IMHANS.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Dr Rather said that current scenario and the research was indicative that Kashmir was heading towards an HCV epidemic in an already existing drug abuse epidemic.
"Injection drug users are known for high-risk behaviours of sharing needles and syringes or other injection materials which can lead to transmission of blood borne infections like HCV. If we talk about Kashmir, IDU is the main driver of the HCV epidemic that we are witnessing. In substance users having HCV, substance use can hasten disease progression, affect adherence to antiviral therapy (HCV medicine), and worsen the overall consequences of HCV that can lead to liver failure," he said.
As per the study, these patients were subjected to the Hepatitis B virus screening also.
Of all the patients, 36 (12 percent) were positive for Hepatitis B (Anti-HBc antibody).
Also, sex under the influence of drugs was seen in 14 (4.67 percent) patients.
In addition, out of 300 studied patients, 170 (56.67 percent) had associated psychiatric comorbidity while 130 (43.33 percent) patients did not have any associated psychiatric comorbidity.
The study reveals that 210 (70 percent) participants were unmarried and 90 were married.
The study population included all males.
"Majority (46.33 percent) of the study participants were between 21 and 25 years of age. A total of 69 (23 percent) of the study participants were between 18 and 20 years of age, 57 (19.33 percent) were between 26 and 30 years of age, 23 (7.33 percent) were between 31 and 35 years of age and 12 (4 percent) were greater than 35 years of age,” the study revealed.
According to the study, the occupational status of the study participants was 226 (75.33 percent) patients were employed and 74 (24.67 percent) were unemployed.
The doctors said the situation was alarming in Kashmir as mostly the injection users were Hepatitis C positive in Kashmir.
Of the 300 samples screened at the Drug De-addiction Centre at SMHS, 216 injection drug users were found positive for Hepatitis C, 12 percent had Hepatitis B infection, and 1 percent were found positive for HIV infection.
Dr Kubra, a resident at IMHANS, told Greater Kashmir that under this study, they had screened the patients for other blood borne infections like Hepatitis B, HIV, and other psychiatric disorders.
“This study was conducted over a period of 18 months," she said.
Dr Kubra said that Hepatitis C does not have a constellation of symptoms and that was why patients do not seek treatment at the earliest.
“Easy availability of drugs makes the scenario worse. We receive patients from all districts of Kashmir. The ratio of rural and urban population was equal. Drug addiction and the spread of infections are quite prevalent in entire Kashmir, " he said.
Earlier, a study conducted by the Government of India revealed that there were 8.5 lakh drug users in India with 25,000 of them being injection users.