Nephropathy associated with heroin abuse in Caucasian patients

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2003 Nov;18(11):2308-13. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfg369.


Background: Renal disease is a complication of heroin addiction. Using renal biopsies in Caucasian patients, we studied the types of nephropathy associated with heroin abuse.

Methods: Nineteen renal biopsies were performed on heroin addicts between January 1993 and December 2001. The indications for renal biopsy included proteinuria with or without renal insufficiency.

Results: All 19 patients had serological evidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, one had hepatitis B virus surface antigen and three were HIV positive. Thirteen patients (68.4%) were found to have membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN), 12 with type I and one with type III. Of the remaining patients, two had chronic interstitial nephritis, two had acute proliferative glomerulonephritis, one had amyloidosis and one had granulomatous glomerulonephritis with interstitial nephritis. No apparent decline in the incidence of renal disease was observed.

Conclusions: In this cohort of male Caucasian heroin addicts, HCV-associated MPGN was the most frequent pattern of nephropathy, showing that the nephropathy associated with heroin abuse in Caucasians is not of the focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis type, in contrast to previous reports on African-Americans. This aspect may have important implications for patient management and prognosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Heroin Dependence / complications*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Diseases / epidemiology
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Male
  • Proteinuria / epidemiology
  • Proteinuria / etiology
  • Proteinuria / pathology
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications*