Today’s New York Times has a vital article about heart infections (“endocarditis”) caused by injecting drugs intravenously. In the area of Tennessee discussed in the article, some addicts return to the hospital two or more times with new infections. They are deadly. But they present the treating doctors with multiple dilemmas. What do you do if patients shoot up while in the hospital? Since so few have medical insurance, how does one pay for the $150,000 or higher cost of care? What do you do if they relapse on drugs and come back with another infection, now even more difficult and expensive to treat than before and with more extensive damage to the heart and other organs?

Note: the image at the top of this page is the inside of an addict’s infected heart valve. Those white things that look like cottage cheese are clumps of bacteria trying to eat through the valve. Little bits of this infected material break off and start satellite infections all over the body. This is an incredibly deadly infection that can kill you within 24-48 hours.