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November 29, 1965


JAMA. 1965;194(9):1006-1007. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090220062019

Narcotic addiction, in addition to being a social and economic problem, is of epidemiological importance inasmuch as addicts often suffer from viral hepatitis which is transmitted from one to another by contaminated injection equipment. As long-term asymptomatic carriers of viral hepatitis, addicts become a menace to other addicts and, frequently, to the public when they donate blood for transfusion in order to obtain a fee.1 Although a specific laboratory test for the detection of the asymptomatic carrier of viral hepatitis is not available, observation of institutionalized narcotic addicts indicates that 75% have persistent abnormalities of hepatic function even after withdrawal from drugs for periods of six months to two years. Significantly, fewer than 17% of a control group in the same institution have abnormal test results.

At necropsy following sudden deaths of narcotic addicts, three fourths of the livers examined had some degree of chronic inflammation of the periportal