How COVID-19 Can Affect Individuals With Substance Use Disorders

How COVID-19 Can Affect Individuals With Substance Use Disorders

COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, is sweeping the globe. By now, you probably know that the people with the highest risk of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19 are older adults and people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. But individuals with substance use disorders can also be hit harder than the general population.

How Do Smoking and Vaping Affect COVID-19 Risk?

COVID-19 attacks the lungs. When the virus began to make itself known in late 2019, it showed up as pneumonia. But doctors weren’t sure what was causing the sickness.

Most people who come down with the illness get mild symptoms. They may feel as though they have a cold. The World Health Organization states that approximately 80 percent of people who contract the virus don’t need any specialized treatment.

But some people develop an upper respiratory infection. They may get a cough and a fever. When the infection reaches the lungs, though, it impairs the lining of the respiratory tree. The body responds by discharging inflammatory material in the lung’s air sacs. More fluids and inflammatory cells are emitted into the lungs, causing pneumonia.

People who smoke or vape already have compromised lungs. Their airways aren’t as effective at clearing viruses. Even the cilia in the nasal cavity, which usually work to keep foreign molecules out of your airways, become impaired.

The chances of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19 are 14 times greater for people who smoke or vape compared to individuals that don’t. People with other substance use disorders may be more likely to smoke or vape than those who don’t struggle with addiction.

One thing that smokers can do to reduce their chance of contracting a serious illness is to quit smoking or vaping. Smoking cigarettes can lead to COPD, a lung disorder that can make COVID-19 symptoms worse. It’s not clear whether vaping contributes to COPD, but it does harm lung tissue and increase your risk of infection.

What Other Substance Use Disorders Affect COVID-19 Risk?

People who use drugs other than cigarettes and vape pens may have an increased chance of developing complications from COVID-19. Many substances compromise your immune system. When your defenses are low, your body has a harder time fighting off germs and healing itself.

Also, some substance abusers neglect other forms of self-care. They may not eat nutritiously. They may expose themselves to environments that are unhealthy. With COVID-19 running rampant, it’s essential to keep your immune system strong.

Opioids and methamphetamines weaken pulmonary health. Opioids can impact the lungs directly and indirectly. They can increase the risk of granulomas. They also cause respiratory depression because they slow down breathing.

The fillers in some types of heroin can be dangerous for the lungs, especially in users who inject the substance. Inhalation and intranasal methods of administration also cause problems in the respiratory system.

People with substance use disorders who use opioids are more likely to develop lung and respiratory complications. Those complications increase their risk of dying from both COVID-19 and overdose.

Methamphetamine is another problematic drug for people with substance use disorders who contract COVID-19. Because people usually smoke meth, even non-regular use can harm the lungs.

Methamphetamine shrinks the blood vessels. This leads to pulmonary hypertension and lung damage. Your heart has to work harder to move blood through the damaged vessels in the lungs. Eventually, your heart may weaken because it is overworked.

This drug also binds to the tissue in your lungs. Your risk of developing serious problems increases if you use meth after contracting a coronavirus infection.

There have been claims that cocaine can cure COVID-19. Many posts indicating as much have gone viral on social media. However, authorities have responded to nix that myth.

If you use cocaine, you may increase your risk of contracting the disease, especially if you share paraphernalia with others. Cocaine also damages the nasal passages, which could make you more susceptible to picking up germs.

Alcohol addiction can also pose a problem for people with COVID-19. Consuming alcohol decreases your body’s ability to combat disease. Drinking in moderation may not affect your susceptibility. But regular alcohol use can impair your immune system. Using alcohol can increase your chances of developing pneumonia from COVID-19.

Other Risks of COVID-19 in People With Substance Use Disorders

There are several other risks for people with substance use disorders during this time when COVID-19 is running rampant. Many of them have more to do with behavioral patterns than the impacts of the drugs themselves.

People in treatment for substance use disorders are more likely to attend group meetings, counseling sessions and programs where they must get together and interact with other people. They might have to visit an outpatient facility and wait in line for their medication every day.

They may not be able to practice social distancing to the extreme that other members of the population can. However, it’s important to maintain your treatment plan if you’re on the road to recovery.

People who struggle with addiction may have limited access to health care. If hospitals become overloaded with COVID-19 patients, people with substance use disorders may experience stronger barriers to treatment.

These individuals may also be more likely to have housing insecurity or end up in jail. In these scenarios, people may be exposed to groups of people, and possibly COVID-19, more than they would if they were able to stay in their houses.

But if you’re struggling with addiction or substance use disorders, you can get help. At New Method Wellness, we aim to support your physical, emotional and mental health.

Our dual diagnosis treatment center has on-site detox facilities and a team of professionals that will provide top-notch care. It’s important to seek help for your substance abuse disorder. This is especially true when you’re dealing with increased stress, anxiety and depression. Don’t let this crisis prevent you from reaching out. Contact us to learn more about how we can support you during this tough time.

For more information about our addiction treatment programs call 866.951.1824



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