New psychiatric and psychological aspects of diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C and relevance for opiate dependence

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Purpose of reviewThis review highlights the aspects of the hepatitis C virus that are important to the psychiatrist.Recent findingsHepatitis C virus infection is frequently associated with mental clouding, depression, neurocognitive impairment, and deterioration in the quality of life. In recent studies psychiatric symptoms have been linked to psychiatric comorbidity rather than to direct hepatitis C virus neurotoxicity. Infection of the central nervous system, however, is thought to play a role at least in hepatitis C virus associated neurocognitive deficits. Application of the anti-hepatitis C virus agent interferon-α is regularly accompanied by psychiatric symptoms, most often depression. Antidepressant treatment may support interferon therapy, but its general indication and timing remain debatable. The problem of hepatitis C virus treatment in manic patients is still unsolved. Hepatitis C infection rates in injection drug users are often 90% and higher, while these patients in particular face barriers when trying to access treatment. Recent studies demonstrated feasibility of hepatitis C virus treatment in injection drug users in specialized treatment settings.SummaryHepatitis C virus infection is associated with psychiatric comorbidity and injection drug use, while treatment of the virus is frequently accompanied by neuropsychiatric symptoms. Psychiatrists are particularly qualified to support diagnosis of hepatitis C associated comorbidity and to render treatment feasible. Evaluation of treatment options and settings in infected patients with psychiatric comorbidity or injection drug users is required, as well as investigation of association of hepatitis C virus infection, and psychiatric and neurocognitive symptoms in properly defined samples.

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