Blog | Thursday, January 29, 2009

TB and drugs: A double whammy

Nearly one-fifth of U.S. tuberculosis patients abuse drugs or alcohol, which is a problem in and of itself. But the substance abuse also makes it harder to treat the TB, according to a release from a new study in Archives of Internal Medicine.

TB patients are more likely to be substance abusers than to be recent immigrants, infected with HIV, homeless or working at a high-risk job, the study found. Substance abusers with TB, but without HIV, were almost twice as likely to have a contagious form of TV than non-abusers, and women substance abusers were more than twice as likely to fail treatment.

Why is this? Substance abusers may not get routine medical treatment, so they are less likely to be detected early. Since TB often spreads faster as the disease progresses, these undetected substance abusers would be more contagious, study authors said. And they may be harder to treat because of weakened immune systems.