SIU School of Medicine to study link between drug use and diseas - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

SIU School of Medicine to study link between drug use and disease

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MARION, Ill. -- Drug abuse can lead to severe health problems, especially if needles are involved.

The SIU School of Medicine plans to study the issue, alongside the University of Chicago.

Brent VanHam, research development coordinator at the SIU School of Medicine, said a dramatic rise in HIV cases three years ago in rural Missouri and Indiana caused them to examine the issue deeper.

"They had a large number of HIV cases come up suddenly in a relatively young population," VanHam said. "It was determined that the spread of HIV went along with the abuse of a drug called Opana, which is like OxyContin, and people were using this drug with needles."

VanHam said the first part of the study was talking to law enforcement and health officials about the drug epidemic. Now, they're looking for people who are active drug users. The hard part is getting them to participate.  

"The difficulty lies in gaining people's trust; Letting them know that this is a federally-funded health study and it's completely confidential and that we pass no judgment on anything they're doing," VanHam said. "We're really trying to get their story so we can help them.">

The SIU School of Medicine is focusing on the southern 16 counties.

They're stopping at spots in southern Illinois, including Marion on Wednesday, to recruit.

"The solutions might look different for a rural area like ours, so the data from this study will hopefully influence the way money is spent to deal with these problems," VanHam said.

And ultimately, he hopes the study will expand access to medical services for those dealing with drug addiction.

Organizers of the study are looking for participants. Requirements include being at least 15-years-old, an English speaker, able to provide consent and actively using drugs. Call (314) 884-0159 for more information.

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