How does recreational drug use affect HIV?
Recreational drug use refers to using substances to cause a temporary change in how people feel about themselves. Examples include people using alcohol or illegal drugs to escape reality or enhance sex. Recreational drugs can cause serious damage when they impair the normal functioning of the body, increasing one’s risk of heart and liver disease, neurological disorders and sexual dysfunction. When taken in an overdose they can also kill you. Substance abuse refers to the incorrect usage of medical drugs such as cough mixtures, sleeping tablets or pain killers.
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Another major risk for people with HIV who use drugs is that the drugs they use will interact with their ARVs. These interactions can increase or decrease the levels of ARVs or of recreational drugs. In the worst case, ARVs may stop working because there's not enough of them in your body. Also, the drug interactions can cause a serious, possibly fatal increase in the level of recreational drugs.
There is virtually no careful research on interactions between ARVs and recreational drugs. The use of recreational drugs is illegal and pharmaceutical companies cannot provide them to people with HIV, even to study the effects. This means that information on drug interactions with ARVs is based on laboratory studies of the recreational drugs or what is already known about how the drugs are broken down (metabolized) in the body.
Most ARVs are processed by the liver. All protease inhibitors use this pathway. The levels of recreational drugs metabolized in the liver can be changed significantly.
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