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Does Having a Substance Use Disorder Make It Easier to Get COVID-19?

A recent study has found people with a substance use disorder (SUD) are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and are more likely to have serious complications.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people across the world. The interventions taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted many lives, causing economic decline, isolation and changes in daily routines. Increasing substance use and declining mental health during the pandemic are also putting more people at risk for addiction. 

While many who get COVID-19 do not have any serious health effects, COVID-19 can lead to respiratory problems, pneumonia, and systemic inflammation that can be dangerous and potentially fatal for some. Because COVID-19 can be deadly in some circumstances, people struggling with addiction often wonder what their chances are of getting COVID-19.

New Study Shows Risks and Outcomes of Patient with a SUD

Researchers are constantly conducting studies to understand the effects of COVID-19. A recent study published in an internationally-recognized scientific journal has shown that those who have a substance use disorder (SUD) are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Furthermore, the likelihood of COVID-19 being more serious in those with a SUD is significantly higher.

This study was done by analyzing the medical records of over 73 million patients, of which 12,030 had been diagnosed with COVID-19. The researchers looked at factors that were more prevalent in patients who had contracted COVID-19 and examined possible connections. Researchers found that patients with a SUD diagnosis within the past year were significantly more at risk for COVID-19. This effect was strongest for those with an opioid use disorder.

The study also found that “compared to patients without SUD, patients with SUD had a significantly higher prevalence of chronic kidney, liver, lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer.” These factors make it more likely that COVID-19 will be dangerous or at least harmful when someone catches it.

SUDs With the Highest Risks

The researchers were able to determine which substance use disorders have the highest risk of contracting COVID-19. These were, in order of most risk to least:

  1. Opioid use disorder
  2. Tobacco use disorder
  3. Alcohol use disorder
  4. Cocaine use disorder
  5. Cannabis use disorder

These risks were most relevant for people who had been diagnosed with a SUD within the last year. The risk was lower for people who had been diagnosed with a SUD over a year ago. While opioid use carried the highest risk, it was a roughly equal risk for all other substances. People diagnosed with cannabis use disorder over a year ago were not statistically more at risk.

How To Protect Your Health & Find Help

It is important to note that it was not using a substance for less than a year that put individuals at risk; instead, having it diagnosed within the last year led to the risk. Individuals who had only just started to seek help were at higher risk than those who had been diagnosed more than a year ago and most likely received the help they needed.

This illustrates the importance of seeking and finding help if you are struggling with an addiction. Having an addiction diagnosed and treated led to better odds of not contracting COVID-19 while having an untreated addiction puts people at significantly higher risk.

If you or a loved one has an addiction, seeking treatment can help you reduce your chances of contracting COVID-19. The damage that addiction causes to your body can not only lead to a bad outcome if you contract COVID-19 but will place you more at risk for other diseases throughout your life. By having a SUD treated, your overall health will improve and your body will be better able to fight infections in the future.

During these turbulent times, the idea of going to a rehab center and detoxing from a substance may seem scary. The Recovery Village puts patients’ safety first, with augmented policies and procedures to protect our clients as they recover. We also provide online resources and teletherapy so you can speak to an addiction specialist from the comfort of your own home. Contact us today so we can discuss treatment options that can suit your needs. 

Wang, Quan; Kaelber, David; Xu, Rong & Volkow, Nora. “COVID-19 risk and outcomes in patients with substance use disorders: analyses from electronic health records in the United States.” Molecular Psychiatry. September 14, 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020.

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

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