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UT Medical Center Research Shows Hepatitis C Spread through Snorting Straws

Officials with the UT Medical Center announced evidence that the sharing of snorting straws when abusing illicit drugs can transmit Hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses like HIV.

“This is a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Craig Towers, lead physician on the study. “The idea that ‘if you snort, don’t share straws’ needs to be communicated around the globe as the use of snorting straws for drug-use is a common practice, especially for those that prefer that method over intravenous drug use.”

Medical professionals released that HCV is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States. The 16 month long study was conducted on 189 HCV-infected pregnant women living in East Tennessee.

According to Dr. Towers, 133 out of 189 participants did not have any idea when they had become infected with HCV. 127 women were first told they had HCV following the prenatal lab work that was obtained during routine prenatal care. Of the women surveyed, 164 reported sharing snorting straws.

“Nearly all participants reported that opiates were the primary drug that was snorted,” said Towers. “In addition, the opiates used intravenously and snorted in the Appalachian region are crushed prescription drugs, which is evidence of the neonatal abstinence syndrome epidemic that also exists in our region and has been the basis of some of my previous research studies.”

Towers said the next phase of his research will study the risk of HCV being transmitted to babies during birth.

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