With HIV/AIDS and substance abuse, there can be a “chicken or egg” effect. People engaged in substance abuse are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, whether through sharing needles or engaging in risky behavior such as unprotected sex. Also, those already diagnosed with HIV/AIDS may turn to substance abuse to cope with the effects of their condition.
Whatever the case, there remains a strong correlation between HIV/AIDS diagnoses and substance abuse. In fact, one study states that nearly 50 percent of people with HIV/AIDS reported current or past histories of drug or alcohol use disorders. The most prevalent substances of abuse were alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.
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People who have HIV/AIDS and a substance abuse addiction, or even an associated mental health issue, need the kind of comprehensive, specialized, and evidence-based treatment and care that all people receive.
A professional recovery program will offer you multilevel treatment options that consider and accommodate your diagnosis. Read on to find out more.
The Symptoms of HIV
The only way to truly know whether or not you have HIV is to get tested, states HIV.gov, a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services information site.
HIV symptoms show up differently in each individual, and they largely depend on what stage of the disease the person is in: the early stage, clinical latency stage, or the late stages of HIV infection (AIDS).
During the early stage of HIV infection, about 40 to 90 percent of people will display flu-like symptoms and others will not feel sick at all. These symptoms can last from a few days to several weeks. Nevertheless, early infection is when HIV is contracted in the past six months. According to HIV.gov, the flu-like symptoms that occur at the early stage are as follows:
- Sore throat
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
It’s worth noting that some people who contract HIV do not show any symptoms at all or for 10 years or more.
Clinical Latency Stage
Referred to as chronic HIV infection, the clinical latency stage occurs where the HIV remains active but reproduces at extremely low levels, states HIV.gov. No HIV symptoms or mild ones can show up at this stage as well.
People who take their medications — referred to as antiretroviral therapy or ART — to treat their HIV every day and at the prescribed levels can remain in this phase for decades at a time. The medication maintenance program keeps HIV in check.
When HIV Progresses to AIDS
When people do not take their medications, they progress through this phase a lot faster. While they remain in the clinical latency stage for a decade or longer, the virus eventually weakens their body, and they develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
The symptoms that occur at this late stage include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Recurring fever or profuse night sweats
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals
- Red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- Memory loss, depression, and other neurologic disorders
What Constitutes a Substance Addiction
Drug addiction is a disease that profoundly impacts a person’s brain and behavior in that they lose their ability to control their use of drugs or medications, whether legal or illegal, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Typically, when someone gains an addiction, they will display outward signs and compulsive behaviors that indicate a substance abuse issue. Outward signs of addiction include the following:
- Changes in appearance; the person looks disheveled, tired, rundown or haggard; bloodshot eyes
- Increased tolerance to alcohol, drugs, or other addictive substances
- Isolation or avoiding interaction with others
- Displaying forgetfulness or a fuzzy recollection of events that have occurred (Sometimes, these episodes are referred to as blackouts or brownouts.)
- Risky handling of finances
- Being negligent when it comes to responsibilities like work or school
- Participating in risky behaviors that endanger themselves or others
- Mood swings and/or irrational behavior
- Decline in mental and/or physical health
- Sudden health challenges and complications
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What’s more, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines symptoms associated with addiction. According to the DSM-5, if someone displays two of the following symptoms over 12 months, then they may have an addiction:
- Taking more of the drug than intended and for a longer time than intended
- A persistent desire to stop taking drugs or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit taking drugs
- A lot of time spent trying to get drugs, abuse them, and/or recover from their effects
- Intense cravings or urges for specific drugs
- Failing to go to work or school, or to meet obligations to friends and family because of drug abuse
- Ongoing drug abuse despite physical, mental, emotional, or social problems associated with the abuse
- Giving up hobbies or activities to abuse drugs
- Ongoing abuse of drugs in inappropriate situations, such as using them in the morning before work, driving while intoxicated, or abusing drugs around children
- Experiencing physical or psychological problems due to substance abuse but continuing to abuse drugs anyway
- Physical tolerance, meaning the body needs more of the drug to experience the original level of intoxication
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when trying to quit the drug
If you have HIV/AIDS and a substance abuse issue, professional addiction treatment can offer integrated services and support to meet your needs.
Professional Addiction Treatment Options
According to this study, someone who has HIV/AIDS, a substance abuse disorder, and/or a co-occurring mental health issue requires services that are comprehensive, integrated, continuous, and culturally responsive.
Professional treatment will provide you with specialized services that consider your medical condition. In other words, they will offer you effective treatment options that do not interfere or disrupt your medication program.
What’s more, research indicates that the treatment of drug addiction might also improve one’s adherence to HIV treatment.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides the following example: “…treating opioid addiction with buprenorphine or methadone improves both adherence to HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) and the quality of care in HIV+ individuals with a history of opioid abuse.”
Acute Treatment and Detox
The first step in professional recovery begins with acute treatment services. A team of doctors, nurses, and medical staff will conduct an assessment of a client’s physical health. Based on those results, they will recommend a plan that addresses your addiction while making special accommodations for your diagnosis.
Acute treatment will also offer you medical detoxification where the substance — whether it is alcohol, opioids, or stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine — is removed from your body, safely and comfortably. Also, any withdrawal symptoms that arise are medically alleviated.
If you have a co-occurring mental health issue to go with your substance addiction, dual diagnosis treatment can address those needs while accommodating your physical health requirements.
What Happens After Detox
After acute treatment and detox, clinical stabilization services are recommended. At this stage, you will receive comprehensive therapy and counseling designed to get to the root of your addiction.
You will have the opportunity to receive treatment at a rehabilitation facility where you will also stay. You will also have access to an array of treatment options that have been proven effective for people with HIV/AIDS diagnoses and substance addictions, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and nutritional treatment.
Clinical stabilization services can offer a range of treatment options, including:
- Nutritional assessments
- Emotional regulation
- Medical education
- Motivational enhancement
- Relapse prevention
- The 12 steps of recovery
- Wellness skills
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills
- Genetic testing
- Family-focused therapy
- Trauma-informed sessions
You can also receive additional counseling and therapy on a part-time basis in outpatient care, which can occur after acute treatment or clinical stabilization phase.
After treatment, case managers help connect clients to recovery communities like 12-step, which provide long-term support and help prevent relapse.
Get Help Today
At every step along the way, we provide treatment options that account for your HIV/AIDS diagnosis but also improve your overall health and chances at sustained sobriety.
Let us connect you with a program that is comprehensive, effective, and tailored to your particular needs.
Content Source: HIV.govDate last updated: May 15, 2. (2018, September 25). Symptoms of HIV. Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/symptoms-of-hiv
Drug addiction (substance use disorder). (2017, October 26). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112
Medina, J. (2018, November 19). Revised Alcohol/Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/addictions/substance-use-disorder-symptoms/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). How Can HIV Be Prevented and Treated in Drug-Using Populations? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hivaids/how-can-hiv-be-prevented-treated-in-drug-using-populations