New data is available on the topic of COVID-19 risk amongst individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD).
I was saddened by this research and at one point… even surprised.
My initial assumptions were mostly verified but some of the data was off with these assumptions.
In a recent study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Molecular Psychiatry, researchers used analyses from electronic health records in the U.S. to determine COVID-19 risks and outcomes in patients with SUDs.
Here is a clear look at some of the important data from these analyses:
Patients with a recent SUD diagnosis had a significantly higher risk of developing COVID-19.
- Among patients with SUD subtypes:
- Opioid use disorder (OUD) had the largest risk for contracting the virus
- Tobacco use disorder (TUD) had the second-highest risk
- Alcohol use disorder (OUD) had the third-highest risk
- Cocaine use disorder (CUD) had the fourth-highest risk
- Patients with SUD often have comorbidities, including:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Pulmonary diseases
- Metabolic diseases
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- These comorbidities are all risk factors for COVID-19
- Among patients with SUD:
- Seniors were more likely to contract COVID-19 than adults
- African Americans were more likely to develop COVID-19 than Caucasians
- Of the 3 demographics studied, race was the factor that had the biggest effect determining COVID-19 risk
- African American patients with OUD had significantly higher COVID-19 risk than Caucasians
- Compared to Caucasians, African Americans with a recent diagnosis of SUDs had a higher prevalence of:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- For rates of deaths and hospitalizations in COVID-19 patients with lifetime SUD:
- 9.57% of the patients died
- The death rates for SUD subtypes were not examined due to their small sample size
- 40.96% of patients with lifetime SUD were hospitalized
- 43.81% of patients with a recent diagnosis of SUD were hospitalized
Limiting Factors of the Study
A major limiting factor of this study was the population size (limited numbers of individuals who are tested for COVID-19 combined with the likelihood that SUD patients with comorbidity might be more likely to get tested).
Another limiting factor of the study is the likelihood that patients with certain stigmatized SUD subtypes (eg cocaine, opioids) are less inclined to get tested for COVID-19 due to socioeconomic factors and/or stigma.
Several other limiters are discussed in detail in the full study.
Analyzing the Data
When I first reviewed this research, I was surprised by one thing… patients with opioid use disorder were shown to have higher COVID-19 risk than patients with tobacco use disorder.
Here is a quote from the discussion section of the study that sums up the data:
“Based on EHR patient data in the US we show that individuals with SUD, particularly recent OUD, were at increased risk for COVID-19 and these effects were exacerbated in African Americans compared to Caucasians.
The higher prevalence of kidney, pulmonary, liver, cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune-related disorders in COVID-19 patients with SUD and also in African Americans are likely to contribute to their higher risk.
These findings identify individuals with SUD as a vulnerable population, especially African Americans with SUDs, who are at significantly increased risk for COVID-19 and its adverse outcomes, highlighting the need to screen and treat SUD as part of the strategy to control the pandemic while ensuring that there are no disparities in access to healthcare support for African Americans.”
How To Boost Your Immune System
If you’re not doing enough to boost your protection and would like to learn tips on how to do this, I created this section for you.
Here is a list of 9 tips that may be useful to you:
- Take a dietary supplement formulated to support your body’s protective functions (I use Fortress by New U Life which contains powerful extracts of elderberry, astragalus, echinacea, garlic, cayenne pepper, and ginger, as well as vitamin C, citrus bioflavonoid complex, zinc, and probiotics). I also take a D-3/K-2 vitamin supplement, Super Pill #2 by Dragon Herbs, and numerous Chinese tonic herbs
- Drink enough water and focus on high-quality H20 (I drink 12 cups daily or more of alkaline-ionized-reverse-osmosis water and spring water)
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night
- Get enough sunlight but avoid too much
- Limit processed foods and sugars and focus on consuming organic whole foods
- Exercise regularly, even if it’s just going for evening walks (something is better than nothing)
- Look for and correct nutrient deficiencies (especially vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids)
- Find out if you have any food allergies and if so, discontinue using foods you’re allergic to; otherwise, food allergies can create or worsen leaky gut syndrome, which puts a big strain on your immune health
- Create a Self-Care & Stress Management Plan and implement it right away to help with stress reduction
P.S. Please share this article with anyone you believe would benefit from learning this valuable information, and thanks for reading.