SUD Significantly Raises the Risk of Getting Covid
Listen up, everyone. It turns out Covid isn’t equally against just everyone. No, it’s particularly against those with Substance Use Disorder. That’s right. A new study confirms that people with SUD are at much greater risk of getting Covid. Risks are especially high for those who smoke pot (no pun). Seems the social aspect of the practice, as well as the wear and tear it places upon the lungs, gives Covid an opening. And we all know how Covid likes to exploit openings.
Bad news for those who’ve gone California Sober. But maybe a little less bad for those who customarily bogart the joint.
You’re no fool. You know Covid kills people. Hell, it’s killed people you know. Or knew. You damn sure don’t want it to kill you too. So you mask up. Obsessively, some say. Sterilizing your hands both before and after plastering your mug in a sporty new CDC-approved N95. As for vaccines, well, you were vaccinated the very first hour of the very first day your age group got the green light. You received dose two the second you were scheduled. You’ve even quit smoking, as well as all drugs and alcohol. Well, almost all drugs and alcohol. You still can’t seem to weed out the weed. Unfortunately, it’s the weed that just might do you in.
So goes the latest anyway. And it’s not idle speculation either. In fact, the findings arise from a National Institutes of Health-funded study published in Molecular Psychiatry and co-authored by National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. They also suggest that health care providers should closely monitor patients with SUDs and develop action plans to help shield them from infection and severe outcomes.
“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” said Dr. Volkow. “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.”
This study was about as comprehensive as they come, consisting of over 73 million patients, of which over 7.5 million had been diagnosed with an SUD at some point in their lives. Slightly more than 12,000 were diagnosed with COVID-19, and about 1,880 had both an SUD and a COVID-19 diagnosis on record. Hospitalizations for the 1,880 with both SUD and COVID-19 were just about 11% higher than those with only COVID. Death rates were precisely 3% higher.
Rong Xu, Ph.D., of Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University teamed with NIDA’s Dr. Volkow. And the pair analyzed EHR data collected until June 15, 2020, from 360 hospitals nationwide. The EHRs were de-identified to ensure privacy. The SUD types studied were tobacco, alcohol, opioid, cannabis, and cocaine.
Considering Covid and SUD
The authors say the study findings underscore the need to screen for, and treat, SUDs as part of the strategy for controlling the pandemic. They also say additional research needs to be done to better understand how best to treat the high risk SUD group, and to see how counseling might mitigate the risk.
By now you know all about mitigating your risk of getting Covid. Or you should know anyway. Masks and vaccines, of course, remain most vital — and important. Especially since they can reduce your risk by as much as 80%. Unfortunately not everyone has seen the light yet (or believed the science). So there’s a large swath of stalwarts out there still putting everyone at increased risk. A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of people whose mask is draped down around their chin. After all, if they can’t be conscientious about something as simple as a mask, how conscientious do you think they’ll be about getting vaccinated?
Still, even if you’re masked, vaccinated and incredibly careful, substance abuse issues can trip you up. Again, that’s especially so for those who smoke pot. If you’re using cannabis medicinally, perhaps switch to edibles. If ganja’s a social thing, maybe you can switch up your social swirl. After all, we’re talking life-risking behavior here. Is this really worth risking your life over?
Smoking tobacco, naturally, is also a risk enhancer. So there’s another great reason to kick that habit. Cocaine use apparently also contributes. Most likely they’re talking about smoking cocaine (that is, crack), which makes perfect sense. But snorting coke wears on a body too, so it wouldn’t hurt too give it the curb while you’re at it.
In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to stop all substances. It wouldn’t hurt your body, it wouldn’t hurt your mind, and it sure wouldn’t hurt your bank account. If anything, it’d do just the opposite — strengthen the body, clear the mind and fatten the bank account. Best of all, you’d receive those benefits by doing absolutely nothing.
Nothing, that is, but stopping. Yeah, we know. Saying is a lot easier than doing. A whole lot easier. But it gets easier, with each and every substance-free day. Days quickly become weeks, weeks quickly become months, then, before you know it, you’ve hit a full year. A productive and satisfying year at that. Where accomplishments become too numerous even to remember, and joys become too fulfilling ever to forget.
Does that sound good to you? Of course it does. So does keeping it going. So why not do yourself a favor? Stop playing Russian Roulette. Keep Covid at bay. Ensure you’re here to enjoy another fulfilling day. You’ll thank yourself in the morning. And each and every morning after that as well.
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(Image Courtesy National Institute on Drug Abuse)