Objective: To measure (a) the prevalence of problem drinking in a population of methadone-treated drug users, (b) independent associations with problem drinking, (c) the effect of hepatitis C status on drinking behaviour, (d) the knowledge of drug users of their hepatitis C status and their perception of their drinking behaviour and (e) the attitude of drug users to the effect of alcohol on hepatitis C virus (HCV) related disease.
Method: A cross sectional survey of 130 drug users in treatment at the National Drug Treatment Centre, Dublin was carried out. A questionnaire incorporated the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and data were collected on sociodemographics, drug use history, perceived HCV status and drinking behaviour, and attitudes to the impact of drinking on HCV related disease. Hepatitis serology and drug urine data were collected from clinical records.
Results: The prevalence of problem drinking was 41% (95% CI 33-51%). Unstable accommodation, older age, male gender and longer duration of heroin use were independent associations with being a problem drinker. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of problem drinking across HCV status. Knowledge of HCV status was accurate, however 35% of those identified as AUDIT cases failed to recognise their problem drinking.
Conclusion: HCV infection among Irish drug users is compounded by a high prevalence of problem drinking with drug users failing to modify their drinking in response. Incorrect perception of problem drinking status could be a barrier to addressing this potentially remediable risk factor.