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There is important news relevant to the addiction recovery community: research shows that people living with a substance use disorder are at a more significant risk of developing COVID-19. Moreover, the study – funded by the National Institutes of Health – shows that SUDs are more susceptible to coronavirus-related health complications and death. The findings are published in Molecular Psychiatry


Dr. Volkow and Rong Xu, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University analyzed electronic health records to reach their findings. They found that the COVID-19–SUD link was most pronounced among people with an opioid use disorder. Patients with a tobacco use disorder were next in line for SUDs most at risk.


“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” said study Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and study co-author. “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.”


Even though SUD constituted 10.3% of the total study population, Dr. Volkow and Rong found that SUDs represented 15.6% of the COVID-19 cases. The scientists hope that healthcare providers will take the research to heart and take measures to shield patients from infection. 


In the United States, the number of coronavirus-related deaths is approaching 200,000 quickly; 6,698,719 Americans have tested positive to date. A number of state and local governments have done well in containing and slowing the spread, but the pandemic isn’t over yet. 


If you feel that your immune system is compromised due to pre-existing conditions, please speak to your primary care physician about safeguarding your health. Contracting COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for anyone with a history of heart or lung conditions. Reading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines can help you make informed decisions for your well-being. 


An Opioid Use Disorder and a Pandemic

opioid use disorder


It’s worth reiterating that Dr. Volkow and her team’s research shows a strong correlation between opioid use disorder and worse COVID-19 outcomes (i.e., hospitalization and death). Opioid use can weaken one’s immune system and may jeopardize the cardiovascular system. Some research suggests a link between opioid use and cardiovascular diseases. 


Opioids are deadly outright, but a pandemic significantly elevates their risk factor. In recent months, we have shared Dr. Volkow’s concerns about the rate of opioid overdoses increasing by 30-40 percent during the pandemic. Now, the American Medical Association (AMA) echoes Volkow’s worries about the opioid addiction epidemic. 


“The AMA is greatly concerned by an increasing number of reports from national, state and local media suggesting increases in opioid-related mortality—particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder in counties and other areas within the state.”


A set of policy recommendations are available to assist states during the pandemic. The aim is to: 

  • Guide Policymakers
  • Reduce the Stress Experienced by OUDs
  • Support Harm Reduction Efforts


California Opioid Use Disorder Treatment


Please contact Hope By The Sea to learn more about our programs and services for men and women battling opioid use disorder. We understand how challenging it is today and how difficult it is to face the reality of addiction. Still, recovery is possible even during a pandemic. We continue to provide a full continuum of care for those who would like to begin a healing journey. Hope Starts Here!