Individuals suffering from addiction disorders are at a greater risk to contract the novel coronavirus and more likely to become seriously ill if infected, according to a National Institutes of Health-funded study that was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
In concluding their findings, the researchers examined electronic health records of more than seventy-three million patients in the United States. Those with addiction disorders accounted for just over 10 percent, but they made up nearly 16 percent of the coronavirus cases.
The analysis revealed that those diagnosed recently with SUDs were more likely to develop the coronavirus, which came out to be highest for people with opioid- and tobacco-use disorders.
Moreover, hospitalizations and fatality rates of coronavirus-positive patients were higher in those with SUDs compared to those without—41.0 percent versus 30.1 percent and 9.6 percent versus 6.6 percent, respectively.
“The lungs and cardiovascular system are often compromised in people with SUD, which may partially explain their heightened susceptibility to [the coronavirus],” the study’s co-author Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in a statement.
“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.”
Additionally, African Americans with a recent opioid-use disorder diagnosis had more than four times the risk of contracting coronavirus than White people. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease—all known risk factors of the coronavirus—were found to be more common among Blacks.
What the researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine discovered was that these individuals were five to seven times more likely to be infected by the virus than those who did not use e-cigarettes.
Recent data indicates that more than five million U.S. high school and middle school students currently use e-cigarettes.
Now more than eight months into the pandemic, there are roughly 31.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, including at least 962,000 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.