Investigation shows higher rate of COVID-19 infections among those with substance use disorders

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Several studies have established that different populations react differentially to COVID-19. Earlier studies from the initial stages of the pandemic demonstrated an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, a higher likelihood of getting severe illness requiring hospitalization, and even death, among people with substance use disorders.

To investigate this further in the aftermath of wide vaccine availability, scientists analyzed the electronic health records of nearly 580,000 fully vaccinated people in the US, with and without substance use disorders, between December 1st, 2020, and August 14th, 2021 who had not been infected with SARS-CoV-2 before receiving the vaccine. Despite the results from this study being overall low, the risk of SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections among vaccinated patients with substance use disorders was higher than the risk for vaccinated people who were not diagnosed with a substance use disorder. The rate of severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death, was also elevated among those with substance use disorders, such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, opioid, and tobacco use disorders.

Because people with substance use disorders are often known to have comorbid conditions, like immunosuppression, it is highly recommended for them to be very cautious during the pandemic and practice every available protection measure such as frequent COVID-19 testing, getting vaccinated, social distancing, and effective masking.

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