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"Endocarditis is a result of bacteria accumulating around and infecting a heart valve. It can appear initially as mild, flu-like symptoms or chest pains and extreme discomfort," Meehan writes. "Emergency surgery to replace heart valves is required in the most extreme cases, but standard treatment involves weeks of sustained doses of antibiotics to make sure the infection is completely cleared."
The CDC says "addicts with endocarditis are 10 times more likely than other patients to die or require a second surgery months after initially leaving the hospital," Meehan writes. "Research has also shown that addicts tend to leave the hospital more often before the weeks-long series of antibiotics that is necessary to complete treatment. In many cases, the patients are in withdrawal from opiate addiction during treatment." Dr. Saritha Gomadam, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kentucky, told Meehan, "The intense atmosphere of post-surgery care only amplifies the anxiety and pain of withdrawal from opiates."