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Page last updated at 06:07 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 07:07 UK
Cocaine users 'risk getting Hep C'
By Briar Burley
Newsbeat reporter

Line of cocaine and razor blade
People can contract Hepatitis C by using bank notes or straws

People who snort drugs like cocaine are putting themselves at risk of contracting Hepatitis C, health charities are warning.

Around 10,000 people get the virus every year in the UK, but many don't know they have it.

You can only contract Hepatitis C if your blood comes into contact with infected blood but, if left untreated, it can potentially be fatal.

People who share needles to take heroin or steroids are at the biggest risk.

But studies have shown it is also possible to get Hepatitis C if you share bank notes or straws when snorting drugs.

Tom, not his real name, found out he had Hepatitis C in a blood test and reckons he got it taking drugs.

"I got into snorting drugs when I was a university student," he said.

"I've never injected drugs. My main exposure's been through snorting cocaine."

Drugs that are inhaled like cocaine are corrosive and can make the inside of your nose bleed.

If that happens, tiny spots of blood can fall onto the note you are using and if that's used by someone else, your blood can travel up their nose and into their bloodstream.

Liver infection

Charles Gore is from The Hepatitis C Trust. He says it's dangerous snorting drugs through a shared bank note or straw.

"If you are doing it and have a bleeding nose and it bleeds onto a note and you then pass it to somebody else, who's then going to snort through it to get the cocaine into their bloodstream, unfortunately they're likely to get your blood in there too, with the infection."

By sharing the same gear to inject or snort cocaine, you could get Hepatitis C
Department of Health advice on contracting Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C attacks the liver. Early symptoms are normally mild, like tiredness and feeling low, but long term it can cause cancer, organ failure and even death.

It's thought the chances of getting the virus are higher if you're injecting drugs, but cocaine use in Britain has doubled in the last 10 years.

That's got some health experts like Charles Gore worried: "People with liver disease only tend to get the really bad obvious symptoms when it's too late. If you've ever snorted drugs, go get a test."

Hepatitis C can be treated, but the medication is strong and involves injections.

Tom's just starting his: "My treatment will last for 28 weeks. It's made up of one injection once a week into my stomach and a morning and nightly dose of tablets".

Taking drugs in any form can cause harm. A spokesman for the Department of Health told Newsbeat: "By sharing the same gear to inject or snort cocaine, you could get Hepatitis C."



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