Addicted Individuals at Higher Risk of COVID-19
A recent study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) analyzed the anonymous electronic health records of over 73 million American patients. Researchers found that while individuals with a history of substance abuse comprised just 10.3% of the total study population, they represented 15.6% of COVID-19 cases.
A subsequent analysis revealed that people with a recent diagnosis of a substance use disorder (SUD) were more likely to develop the novel coronavirus than the general population. People with a history of addiction were also more likely to experience worse COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes than others.
Of the 73 million patients in the study population, over 7.5 million had been diagnosed with a SUD at some point in their lives. Just over 12,000 had a COVID-19 diagnosis, and 1,880 had both a SUD and COVID-19 diagnosis on record.
“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA. “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.”
NIDA’s findings indicate that individuals in active addiction or recovery should develop COVID-19 action plans for the pandemic. These plans will help to protect them from potential infection and the resulting severe outcomes.
Creating COVID-19 Action Plans
Several government organizations have released various suggestions for your personal COVID-19 action plans. They recommend that you…
- Follow CDC guidelines regarding the spread of COVID-19: practice social distancing, wear a mask, and regularly sanitize your hands and high-touch surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, have recently traveled, or are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.
- Remain aware of news and developments surrounding the novel coronavirus, its treatment, and its spread in your area.
- If you work, speak with your employer about working remotely or adapting your work environment to guard against infection.
- Stay home if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Contact your primary care physician immediately if you begin experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and get tested as soon as possible. Because people with a history of addiction may be at higher risk for severe outcomes, it is essential to determine a diagnosis and receive treatment as soon as possible.
- Modify your activities to reduce the risk of infection (online banking, grocery delivery, and receiving prescriptions by mail, for example).
- Develop a social bubble: a group of people who you will see who you can trust to take precautions against infection. Avoid contact with those outside of your bubble.
- If you are currently taking part in aftercare, continued care, or outpatient programs, stay in contact with your provider. They can help you to transition to telehealth services if needed.
- Acquire resources that will help you prepare for a lockdown, such as nonperishable foods, paper products, important medications, and other necessities.
- Change or avoid non-essential activities where you are exposed to others outside of your bubble, or which involve unnecessary risk (traveling, indoor activities).
- Compile a list of effective, healthy coping mechanisms. We are all experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety during these times – for those in recovery, this can increase the risk of relapse. Be sure that virtual recovery meetings, meditation, exercise, and healthy eating are a part of your repertoire in the weeks ahead.
- Avoid activities that are in closed or indoor environments, have large numbers of people in attendance, require physical activity or close contact, involve sharing objects with others, or go on for a long amount of time.
Unique Challenges for Those in Recovery
People in treatment may face difficulties created by social distancing measures. Self-quarantine and other requirements may disrupt patients’ access to support services and medications. Isolation poses a significant threat of relapse for those who are in early recovery – social support is a crucial element of sobriety. We encourage everyone to reach out to friends and family during these trying times. Additionally, online AA and NA meetings are available; you can meet people in recovery from all over the world and find support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
COVID-19 Action Plans: Do You Need Safe, Effective Treatment?
Lakeside-Milam has made your health and safety our top priority. Our addiction specialists have helped over 100,000 addicts and alcoholics to find recovery, and now we have adapted our evidence-based modalities for COVID-19. We provide in-person and telehealth services for those dealing with addiction and mental illness. To learn more, contact our admissions team.