Alcohol Consumption within the Context of Hepatitis C: A Qualitative Study of Non-Problematic Drinkers

Aims: Little is known about how non-problematic drinkers respond to advice to reduce alcohol consumption as part of disease management. In this article, we examine patient reports of drinking behaviour after being diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C, a condition for which alcohol consumption is contraindicated. Methods: In this qualitative study, we analyzed transcripts of semi-structured interviews with hepatitis C virus+ (HCV+) patients whose level of alcohol consumption would not be considered problematic in the absence of their diagnosis. Results: Most respondents reported some instances of adherence, but only half adhered to the advice to limit drinking consistently over time. Respondents who did not stop drinking often modified their behaviour by changing the type of alcohol consumed or limiting drinking to particular occasions. Conclusion: Most informants understood the risks of drinking after HCV infection, particularly in the presence of symptoms, with the onset of complications, or when undergoing treatment. But some believed they could monitor their bodies for evidence of disease progression or that drinking was acceptable during early, asymptomatic stages of infection. Our results also identified situations in which patients need support in adhering to intentions not to drink, including social pressures, stressful situations, or environmental triggers. (Received 7 February 2006; first review notified 9 March 2006; in revised form 12 May 2006; accepted 12 May 2006)© The Author 2006. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Medical Council on Alcohol. All rights reserved