Cocaine and infectious diseases

A new study led by Dr Karen Ersche may help explain why regular cocaine users are more likely to contract an infectious disease than those with no history of drug addiction. The research was recently published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Infectious diseases are the most common and costly health complications of drug addiction and chronic drug users are particularly high risk of contracting infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, even if they are not injecting drugs. Rates of other infections such as tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases are also high amongst people who regularly consume addictive drugs such as cocaine.

The researchers found that cocaine-dependent men have heightened physical and biological ‘warning’ reactions to visual clues that convey risk of infection, such as rotten food and dirty toilets. These oversensitive bodily reactions may be borne from a history of recurrent infection. Yet their lack of awareness about their bodies alarm signals could cause cocaine users to not protect themselves adequately, putting themselves at greater risk of contracting an infectious disease.

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