Study Links Drug Use to High Rates of Syphilis

A connection between drug use and high syphilis rates in the United States was established by a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sarah Kidd, lead author of the report, pointed out that two major health issues, namely addiction and syphilis, seemed to be colliding with each other.

The report displayed a connection between drug use and instances of syphilis in heterosexual men and women. As per the report, the usage of heroin, methamphetamine, and other injection drugs by the aforementioned group almost doubled from 2013 to 2017.

The report however, did not display a similar increase in drug abuse in gay men suffering from syphilis. According to the researchers, the results of the study indicated that risky sexual behaviors associated with drug abuse may be one of the key driving factors for this increase in syphilis among the heterosexual population.

People using drugs more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities

According to experts, people abusing drugs are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities, thereby making them more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Syphilis significantly increased among heterosexuals especially during the ‘crack cocaine epidemic’ prevalent during the 1980s and 1990s. It was observed that during this particular time period, the usage of drugs was connected with the higher transmission rates of syphilis.

According to Patricia Kissinger, professor epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, it is common tendency among people abusing drugs to indulge in unprotected sex, exchange sex in lieu of money or drugs, and have multiple sex partners. All these are considered as significant risk factors contributing to the spread of the disease.

Syphilis rates are setting new records

At the national level, the occurrences of syphilis jumped by around 73 percent at an overall level and 156 percent in case of women patients between 2013 and 2017. While syphilis had been almost eradicated, of late, the highest resurgence of the disease was reported in California, Louisiana, and Nevada. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can cause organ damage and even death in some cases. In women, congenital syphilis typically occurs when a mother transmits the disease to her unborn baby, leading to cases of premature birth and newborn fatalities.

Analyzing the syphilis cases that occurred between 2013 and 2017, the researchers discovered that methamphetamine abuse was the biggest contributor. The report revealed that more than one-third of women and a quarter of heterosexual men suffering from syphilis were reported to be abusing methamphetamine within the last year. The California Department of Public Health reported that methamphetamine use by people suffering from syphilis, doubled in case of heterosexual men and women between 2013 and 2017.

Why is it difficult to treat sexually transmitted infections?

Owing to the overlapping instances of substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it becomes challenging to identify and treat people suffering from syphilis. That is because, typically, people using drugs are less likely to visit a doctor or report their sexual activities or partners.

Likewise, pregnant women may refrain from seeking prenatal care and get themselves tested for syphilis owing to concerns such as their gynecologists reporting their drug abuse. To combat this issue, the CDC urges to bring about more collaboration between programs treating substance abuse and programs addressing STIs.

Fresno County reported highest rate of congenital syphilis

According to the report, the highest rate of congenital syphilis was reported in Fresno County in California. The county’s community health division manager, Joe Prado, said that the California Health Department analyzed around 25 congenital syphilis cases in 2017 and more than two-thirds of these women were abusing drugs.

To address this issue, the country took proactive measures such as offering STD testing for patients getting admitted into inpatient drug treatment centers. Patients coming back for reports were provided incentives including gift cards. Apart from this, for patients undergoing drug treatment, the county offered a care package comprising of contraceptives and education materials about STIs.

Challenges faced

While it is significant to have an increased collaboration between STD clinics and drug treatment providers, it is not always that simple, since these two entities have not worked together previously. Usually both these units tend to focus only on their relevant specialties and often fail to screen people for associated ailments like syphilis or other forms of STIs or for drug abuse.

According to Jeffrey Kalusner, professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in order to fight the rising rates of syphilis more resources are needed. He added that though policies can be implemented towards syphilis testing, these policies need to be accompanied with appropriate resources.

Seeking treatment for drug abuse

Drug abuse is often associated with the development of physical ailments like hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis and other STDs. These infections can be severe and result in rapid deterioration of overall health. The best way to avoid the contraction of these diseases is to avoid taking drugs or if addicted, to seek addiction treatment help at the earliest.

The drug rehab centers of Hillside Mission offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment plans for substance abuse. Whether selecting an inpatient, outpatient, or a residential plan, the detox process at Hillside Mission is designed to minimize the patient’s discomfort and result in a shorter treatment cycle.

Top 10 Historical Figures With Syphilis!

Painters, composers and genocidal maniacs – it takes all sorts to die of syphilis! In fact, about 15% of the earth’s population in the 19th century contracted the dreaded venereal disease at some point in their lives.

These days a positive STD test would lead to treatment for this curable disease but for many who contracted the disease in those days it could prove deadly. Here are the ten most famous historical characters suspected to have suffered from the sexually transmitted disease.

10 – Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin, known as the ‘King of Ragtime’, wrote the famous piece of music ‘The Entertainer’. However, Joplin’s final hours would have been far from entertaining – he died in a mental institution suffering from the physical and mental influences of syphilis.

9 – Casanova

Casanova used a condom made out of sheep’s gut and tied on with a tasteful pink ribbon. However, the sexually prolific Venetian adventurer and author wasn’t as careful as he could have been and, as a result, suffered frequent bouts of venereal diseases including syphilis.

8 – Tolstoy

The Russian literary giant, author of ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ Leo Tolstoy suffered from syphilis during his youth, which was cured using arsenic treatment. In his novels, Tolstoy vividly examined the relationship between life and death.

7 – Ivan the Terrible 

Ivan’s sexual promiscuity with both sexes, his last illness and many features of his personality support a diagnosis of syphilis. It was often ‘treated’ with mercury and he died of mercury poisoning. However, it cannot be determined if Ivan’s terrible problems were physical or psychological, and with anonymous STD testing yet to be invented in Ivan’s era we may never find out the truth.

6 – Nietzsche 

Friedrich Nietzsche was a nineteenth-century German philosopher and philologist who had a major influence on philosophy, particularly in existentialism and postmodernism. A popular, though hotly disputed, story about Nietzsche is that he went insane after being infected with syphilis.

5 – Mussolini

Benito Mussolini exploited a grenade wound in the First World War to cover up syphilis, according to research which would explain the Italian dictator’s uncharacteristic refusal to boast about his heroism at the front. The syphilis theory fits with rumours which circulated in Italy during his rule – and his chronic gastric problems, a symptom of the sexually transmitted disease.

4 – Henry VIII

The gradual mental deterioration and paranoia which Henry VIII developed as he grew older was possibly the result of late stage syphilis. However, This well known theory was probably first promoted about 100 years after his death.

3 Beethoven

Whether Beethoven actually had syphilis has been debated for decades. Since anonymous STD testing was not available at that time we probably won’t find out. However, the composer was known to associate with prostitutes, and propagators of the theory often claim that the disease is what caused him to become deaf.

2 – Hitler

Adolf Hitler’s tremors and irregular heartbeat during the last years of his life could have been symptoms of late stage syphilis, which would mean he had had the sexually transmitted disease for many years. His many symptoms included encephalitis, dizziness, neck pustules, chest pain, an accentuated heartbeat and frequent paranoid rages.

1 – Shakespeare

After a close examination of William Shakespeare’s writings, the Infectious Diseases Society of America published an article suggesting that Shakespeare most probably had syphilis, and that his sickness could possibly explain several events in his later years.

Syphilis And The Pope

Syphilis is a common and well known sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sexual intercoarse is the most common of 3 possible ways to contract it. If it is not transmitted sexually, it is possible, but rare, to get an infection through direct contact. Your body will also accept the disease from your birth mother. This is called congenital syphilis.

Many historic figures have suffered from syphilis, including Pope Alexander VI, Christopher Columbus, King Henry VIII and five of his wives, Francis I of France, Ivan the Terrible, Queen Elizabeth I, King Edward VI, Napoleon I of France, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Al Capone. As you can see, syphilis dates a long way back.

Known to many as “Syphilis – The Great Imitator” [http://www.syphilis-information.com], syphilis is a very difficult disease to diagnose. It is very often confused with other sexual diseases. There is a reported 35,000 cases of syphilis each year, 60% being male. Sadly, syphilis can take the life of its victims if it is left untreated. it can also result in damage to the heart, brain, and nerves. To treat the STD, there are two options; daily pills (this is the least effective method) or penicillin. For treatment, a half dose of penicillin is injected into each buttock. This is extremely painful, so procaine is added for some relief.

Syphilis can be atrocious or mild, but either way, you do not want it. If you are uncertain, get checked anyways, it could be the difference between life and death.

Syphilis Testing – Why It Is Important to Test for Syphilis

Syphilis testing is important because it is easily spread and can be fatal, but can also be cured. Test for syphilis in order to take first step toward getting fast treatment.

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) because it is most commonly spread through sexual contact. It is a bacterium that can cause serious health problems or even death if left untreated.

It lives in the body and has four (4) stages – primary, secondary, latent, and late. In its final stages, it can be fatal. Since it is a bacterium and not a virus, it can be cured with antibiotics in its early stages. Most doctors recommend penicillin. Other antibiotics can be prescribed for those that are allergic to penicillin. Syphilis testing with a blood sample is the only way to diagnose the infection.

How is it transmitted?

Most commonly, it is transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. People get it by coming in direct contact with a syphilis sore during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It can also be passed during kissing if contact is made with an open sore. These sores can be located on the penis or in the vagina, mouth, or anus.

Sex is not the only way to contract this disease. A pregnant mother can pass it on to her children during childbirth causing the children to be infected.

It is recommended that all people who are sexually active get syphilis testing annually, and with every new partner. It is also recommended that expectant mothers test for syphilis during their pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of syphilis?

Many times people with syphilis will show symptoms but sometimes they will not. If symptoms are present, they will show up differently depending on the stage of the infection.

1) Primary – This stage occurs about 3 weeks after infection. During this time people may develop a small sore in the area where the bacteria entered the body. It can be located in or on the penis, vagina, anus, or mouth. Most people only get one sore, but it is possible to have several. It is usually painless and goes away in a few weeks. Many times it goes unnoticed.

2) Secondary – A few weeks after the first sore heals, a rash may develop. It starts on the body’s core (the area that covers the abdomen, sides, and back) and eventually spreads to the entire body, including the hands and feet. Sores may also develop in the mouth or genital area. The rash is usually not itchy and may be also come with flu like symptoms including fever, a sore throat, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands. These symptoms may disappear in a few weeks, or they may come and go over the course of a year. Even if they do go away, it is important to test for syphilis.

3) Latent – This is when the syphilis infection is not treated and the above symptoms disappear. The bacteria is still living and thriving in the body at this time and can lie dormant (show no indications) for years.

4) Late – At this time, the bacteria can eat away at a person’s brain, organs, nerves, bones, and joints. This stage is when it becomes fatal.

This disease may or may not have indications. Syphilis testing tells a person if they are infected or not.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting any STD, including syphilis. Practicing abstinence (not having sex at all) is the only way to avoid this risk completely.

An easy way to lower the risk is to properly use condoms during every sexual encounter. However although this can lower the risk, depending on where they are located, syphilis sores may not always be avoided by using a condom.

Research shows that those who engage in unprotected sex, those who have multiple partners, men who have sex with men (MSM), and those who are HIV positive are at an increased risk. Conversely, contracting syphilis also increases the risk of contracting HIV. It is smart to get tested for both.

Why is testing so important?

Syphilis testing is so important because when it is properly treated, it can be cured. If it is not treated, it can kill. Many times people do not know they are infected. Symptoms may not be present, or they may be inadvertently ignored.

It is recommended that everyone who is sexually active get a test for syphilis every year and with every new partner. Knowing your STD status and the STD status of your partner will help to reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

Where can I get a test?

There are thousands of local STD testing centers all over the U.S. offering STD testing for chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, and syphilis. Syphilis testing can be ordered alone. However, physicians recommend getting a full panel STD test that includes all of them.