Drug abusers are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms

drug users covid symptoms
Photo via Revival Vape/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Almost a year ago, the medical world began speculating about the impact of COVID-19 and its symptoms on people who smoke and vape, as well as among drug users. An entirely new category has since been added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of conditions. The category includes conditions created by protracted vape usage, which puts individuals at risk of experiencing more severe COVID-19 symptoms. 

Substance abuse was added to the CDC’s list on March 29, as it came to light that the impact of substance abuse on the human body can put people at higher risk of developing severe symptoms. These severe COVID symptoms include, for current drug users, the direct effects of their chosen substance, as well as health concerns stemming from past use. 

For example, opioids can cause the user to have slow or ineffective breathing, which is made worse by COVID-19. Stimulants, like cocaine or methamphetamine, can cause heart or lung damage through heart attacks and other chronic conditions. 

Stress created by the pandemic is correlating with an increase in substance abuse disorders, including alcoholism. The toll of constant vigilance and anxiety around personal safety during the pandemic has left people seeking comfort in the form of drug use, which is likely to ultimately do more harm than good.

As noted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the U.S. already had a substance abuse epidemic long before the COVID-19 crisis necessitated lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. 

There are resources available during the COVID-19 pandemic for drug users and those who have substance abuse disorders. Anyone in need can get immediate help through several options listed by the CDC. The Disaster Distress Helpline, which can be reached at 1-800-985-5990, is one option, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, reachable at 1-800-273-8255, is available for emergency assistance.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline, which can be reached at 1-800-662-4357, can provide assistance in locating a specialized provider. 

Sources: CDC, CDC for Medical Professionals, Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

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