Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by several things, including alcohol, drugs, and viruses. Many people with hepatitis recover within a few months, but hepatitis can be chronic and progress to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). Hepatitis C virus can cause chronic hepatitis infection, cirrhosis, or liver failure and can increase the risk for liver cancer. People become infected with the hepatitis C virus through sexual intercourse or by sharing contaminated needles with persons who are already infected. Strong antiviral drugs can kill hepatitis C virus, but these drugs are difficult to take and have many side effects. Patients taking these drugs must be followed closely and have liver biopsies analyzed. Doctors usually won't give antiviral drugs to people who drink too much, “shoot up” drugs, have severe liver disease or other serious medical problems, are pregnant or unwilling to practice contraception, or suffer from severe psychiatric problems. The studies showing that antiviral therapies work have been done in people without any of these problems. We do not know whether most patients with hepatitis C virus infection have such problems and cannot take antiviral therapy.