Substance use exacerbates outcomes of Covid-19: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on September 16, 2020 Published on September 16, 2020

The study said those with a recent SUD diagnosis were more likely than those without to develop Covid-19

According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people who consume drugs are more susceptible to contract coronavirus and its severity.

The study was also published in Molecular Psychiatry, co-authored by Nora D Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The findings suggest that health care providers should closely monitor patients with substance use disorders (SUDs) and develop action plans to help shield them from critical outcomes.

The team of researchers noted that while individuals with an SUD constituted 10.3 per cent of the total study population, they represented 15.6 per cent of the coronavirus cases.

For the study, the researchers analysed the non-identifiable electronic health records (EHRs) of over 7.3 crore patients, of which over 75 lakh had been diagnosed with an SUD at some point in time in their lives.

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The analysis revealed that those with a recent SUD diagnosis on record were more likely than those without to develop Covid-19, an effect that was strongest for opioid use disorder, followed by tobacco use disorder.

The study further said that people with an SUD diagnosis were also more likely to experience Covid-19 outcomes getting exacerbated (hospitalisation, death) than people without an SUD.

Volkow explained: “The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to Covid-19.”

“Another contributing factor is the marginalisation 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,” Volkow added.

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. The types of SUDs investigated in the study were tobacco, alcohol, opioid, cannabis, and cocaine.

The hospitalisation rate for people on SUDs stood at 41 per cent, while for people who had never had SUD, it stood at 30.1 per cent.

The death rate for people with recorded SUDs stood at 9.6 per cent, while for people without SUDs, it was 6.6 per cent.

The authors of the study believe that there is a need to screen and treat SUDs as part of the strategy for controlling the pandemic.

Additional research needs to be done to better understand how best to treat those with SUDs who are at risk of Covid-19 and counsel them on ways to avoid the risk of infection.

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Published on September 16, 2020
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