TB and substance misuse

TB patient treated under DOTPeople who misuse drugs or alcohol have a greater risk of catching TB. This is because:

  • alcohol and drugs damage a person’s body and weaken their defences against illnesses such as TB
  • they may not eat a diet that provides all the nutrients they need to stay healthy
  • they may spend time in places where it’s easier for TB to spread, such as crowded or poorly ventilated homes or social venues
  • they may be around other people who have infectious TB but don’t know it.

The symptoms of TB can be masked by drink and drugs and someone with a substance misuse problem may also find it difficult or be reluctant to access healthcare, or take their medication regularly if they do. This means they then pose an increased risk of passing infectious TB on to others and/or developing drug-resistant TB.

TB treatment can also be complicated in people with drug and alcohol issues because:

  • TB medication can lead to side effects such as liver toxicity, which is particularly dangerous for people who drink too much alcohol
  • injecting drug users are at risk of co-infection with viral hepatitis and/or HIV, which require careful monitoring and alternative drug-regimens.
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