People with Addiction Are More Susceptible to COVID-19
According to the National Institutes of Health, people who struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol are more likely to fall ill when exposed to COVID-19, and they are more likely to suffer severe symptoms once they do contract the disease. Because of that, people who struggle with addiction should do everything they can to get help.
Addiction and Increased COVID-19 Susceptibility
When people bring unhealthy choices and habits into their lives, it opens the door to more harm and danger in other ways. For example, researchers at the National Institutes of Health concluded that people who misuse drugs and alcohol are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. The researchers analyzed test data from millions of COVID-19 patients from hundreds of medical centers and hospitals across the United States. They found that:
- People with addiction comprise about 10.3 percent of the total U.S. population.
- People with addiction comprised about 15.6 percent of recorded COVID-19 cases.
- People with addiction who contracted COVID-19 were more likely to suffer severe symptoms (such as hospitalization and death) than non-addict COVID-19 patients.
- COVID-19 patients who suffered from addiction ended up in the hospital 41 percent of the time, compared to a 30.1 percent hospitalization rate for non-addict COVID-19 patients.
- COVID-19 patients who suffered from addiction ended up dying from COVID-19 complications 9.6 percent of the time, compared to a 6.6 percent fatality rate for non-addict COVID-19 patients.
Addiction and Susceptibility to COVID-19
Why are people with addictions more likely to contract COVID-19? A few factors are at play here. Most types of substance abuse harm the lungs of the individual. As the COVID-19 virus attacks the lungs first and foremost, weakened lung health is one of the primary reasons why addicts are more susceptible to COVID-19.
Any form of drug use that involves smoking, snorting, or inhaling a substance will have a direct, harmful effect on lung tissue. When the lungs are in a weakened state, they are less likely to defend themselves against invasive pathogens like COVID-19.
Opiate misuse is rated at the top of the list of substances that increase an individual's susceptibility to COVID-19, making opiate addicts even more likely to contract the illness than people who use tobacco. From Dr. Volkow's NIDA report, “Since opioids act in the brainstem to slow breathing, their use not only puts the user at risk of life-threatening or fatal overdose, it may also cause a harmful decrease in oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia). Lack of oxygen can be especially damaging to the brain; while brain cells can withstand short periods of low oxygen, they can suffer damage when this state persists. Chronic respiratory disease is already known to increase overdose mortality risk among people taking opioids, and thus diminished lung capacity from COVID-19 could similarly endanger this population.”
Methamphetamine use also puts individuals at increased risk for COVID-19 complications because meth use constricts the blood vessels and predisposes people to pulmonary damage and pulmonary hypertension. Those factors make meth addicts more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and more likely to suffer extreme symptoms as a result of contracting the illness.
It is also worth mentioning that the lifestyle of someone who uses drugs and alcohol tends to put them more at risk for contracting COVID-19. Poor diet, lack of sleep, and poor personal hygiene are characteristics that often accompany addiction, and these characteristics also make one more susceptible to getting sick from exposure to a COVID-positive individual. Needle sharing, unsafe sexual relations, and close personal contact can also contribute to increased risk factors.
“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19. Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services. It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group.”
There is no doubt that addicts are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and one of the study authors, had a final comment on the issue. “The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19. Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services. It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group.”
Addiction Treatment—The Importance of Getting Off of Drugs for Life
When someone falls prey to an addiction to drugs and alcohol, their very life is at risk daily. Addiction is a highly dangerous, potentially lethal crisis that causes the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019 alone.
If you know someone addicted to drugs and alcohol, don't wait another day to get them help. Addiction has always been a life or death crisis. But given the critical nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the added risk factors, people who struggle with addiction are in even more danger.
Narconon provides a practical, lasting, and meaningful route away from drugs and into a life of stability, sobriety, and freedom from substances. Created over half-a-century ago, the Narconon program’s efficacy has been proven time and time again by the lives of thousands of people across the world who have benefited from the program. Don’t wait another day to help your loved one get better. Please call Narconon to get your loved one away from serious addiction danger and COVID-19 risk.
Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP