Substance Use Disorder and COVID-19

Many people who begin journeys of recovery also contend with co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. What’s more, many individuals working programs also have physical health problems linked to years of alcohol or substance misuse. While it’s still possible to achieve lasting recovery, such individuals must address comorbidity; successful outcomes depend on managing any illnesses that might jeopardize one’s efforts. 


Drugs and alcohol affect both mind and body. Part of the recovery process is about no longer neglecting one’s physical health. Eating healthy and prioritizing physical fitness is strongly encouraged by addiction professionals, as both help with the recovery process. Healthy foods nourish the mind and body. Making eating right a priority can help repair the damage caused by prolonged use of mind-altering substances. 


Learning how to lead a healthy lifestyle is a crucial facet of addiction recovery—the mind, body, and spirit are connected. Choosing to eat nutrient-rich foods and establishing an exercise routine pays off, especially in early recovery—when one’s neurological and physiological systems are off-balance. A healthy diet can boost your immune system, which helps the healing process in turn; it can also help ward off sickness. 


People in early recovery also benefit from choosing to give up tobacco products. There is evidence that smokers are at a higher risk of relapse. Moreover, tobacco can slow down healing, and the long-term damage that cigarettes and smokeless nicotine products cause is well documented.


Substance Use Disorder and COVID-19


There are individuals in early and long-term recovery who have compromised immune systems. A large cohort of recovering alcoholics and addicts have heart, liver, and lung conditions. As such, men and women with physical health problems benefit from doing whatever they can to improve their health. 


In the year of a novel coronavirus that has infected nearly 7 million Americans and taken almost 200,000 lives, the term immunocompromised is part of the national lexicon. Those with pre-existing health conditions are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, and they may be less likely to recover. Naturally, the above should be concerning for many men and women in recovery for the reasons stated above. 


New research appearing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry confirms that people with substance use disorders (SUD) are more susceptible to COVID-19 and related health complications. The National Institutes of Health-funded (NIH) study found that individuals with a SUD diagnosis on record were more likely to contract COVID-19, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 than people without a SUD. 


The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow and Rong Xu, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University, analyzed non-identifiable electronic health records (EHR) of millions of patients in America. While patients with a SUD accounted for 10.3 percent of the total study population, they represented 15.6 percent of the COVID-19 cases. The correlation was strongest among people with an opioid use disorder or tobacco use disorder. 


“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to COVID-19,” said study co-author, 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.” 


According to the study authors, the research confirms that health care providers should closely monitor men and women with SUDs. The researchers also recommend that doctors “develop action plans to help shield them from infection and severe outcomes.” 


Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital


Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat if you or a loved one struggles with drugs, alcohol, or a co-occurring disorder. HVRC is still fully-functional during these unprecedented times, and we are strictly adhering to CDC guidelines to safeguard our patients’ well-being. Our admissions team is standing by to answer any of your questions about our programs and services.