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Mental Health/Substance Use – Possible Complications

Possible Complications

Possible complications of injecting drug use in people living with HIV

The possible consequences of injecting drug use by people living with HIV (PLWHIV) result both from the drugs themselves and from the lifestyle associated with injecting drug use, including:1

  • health-related
    • co-infection with bloodborne viruses, leading to liver disease
      • including hepatitis B, C* and D
    • bacterial infections
      • tuberculosis*
      • bacterial pneumonia
      • endocarditis
      • septicemia
    • drug overdose
    • alcohol dependence and alcohol-related liver disease
    • poly-substance dependence
    • psychiatric comorbidity, including depression
    • injection-related
      • deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE)
      • local soft tissue and vascular injuries, including skin abscesses and thrombophlebitis
      • increased risk of respiratory and smoking-related illnesses and chronic diseases
  • social factors
    • stigmatisation, discrimination and social marginalisation
    • poverty
    • homelessness
    • unemployment
    • family and social dysfunction
    • criminal behaviour and imprisonment.

*See Signs & Symptoms for more information about these co-infections.

Possible complications of alcohol use

Numerous diseases and injuries have been causally linked to alcohol intake by the general population, including:2

  • health
    • neuropsychiatric disorders
    • gastrointestinal disorders
      • cirrhosis
      • pancreatitis
    • cancer
      • colorectal
      • breast (female)
      • larynx
      • liver
      • oesophagus
      • oral cavity
      • pharynx
    • cardiovascular diseases
      • hypertension
      • cardiac dysrhythmias
      • hemorrhagic stroke
    • diabetes mellitus
      • heavy drinking is detrimental to diabetes mellitus
    • foetal alcohol syndrome and preterm birth complications
    • injuries
      • intentional
        • suicide
        • violence
        • self-inflicted injuries
      • unintentional
        • road traffic accidents
        • falls
        • drowning
        • poisoning


  1. World Health Organization. HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care. Clinical Protocols for the WHO European Region, 2007. Accessed 25 October 2011.
  2. World Health Organization. Global status report on alcohol and health, 2011