Addiction increases chances of COVID breakthrough case, study claims

A new report reveals that those who struggle with substance use disorder are at higher risk for serious complications.

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Though the world has been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year, treatment and recovery options are still being unearthed.

It’s widely known that certain underlying health conditions increase one’s chances of fighting a bad case of COVID-19; People with asthma, diabetes, obesity or those who’ve have had certain cancers are more at-risk for serious complications from the virus. But a new report reveals that those who struggle with substance use are also at a greater risk for breakthrough coronavirus cases, News Channel 3 reports.

World Psychiatry revealed that people with substance use disorders (SUD) are almost twice as likely to have breakthrough COVID-19 infections than those without. Researchers at Case Western University and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) analyzed the cases of over 30,000 vaccinated people with alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, cocaine, and opioid use disorders.

They compared their cases to nearly 580,000 vaccinated patients across the country who don’t use the substances. The results revealed that around 7 percent of vaccinated people who abused drugs and alcohol contracted the virus, compared to 3.6 percent of non-SUD patients.

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Addiction issues in patients also increases the likelihood of hospitalization. The report notes that the current breakthrough infections among vaccinated people are usually mild, with just 1.6 percent of infected requiring hospitalization and half of 1 percent of infected dying. Among people with substance use disorders, 22.5 percent were hospitalized and 1.7 percent died.

“People understand that obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease [are risk factors],” said QuanQiu Wang, co-author of the study and specialist at the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery at Case Western Reserve University. “Our study shows people with substance abuse disorder are also a very vulnerable population for COVID-19 infections as well as severe outcomes.”

Cocaine and marijuana users have the highest risk of getting breakthrough coronavirus infections. Those who use tobacco experience a 6.8 percent greater risk. Opioid users are at 7.1 percent, alcohol at 7.2 percent, and cocaine at 7.7 percent. ​​People who used marijuana are at a 7.8 percent greater risk of experiencing breakthrough infections, even though marijuana users trend younger in age with fewer underlying health troubles.

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A hospital worker receives one of the country’s first coronavirus vaccinations, using the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative, at Yaba Mainland hospital in Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)

The reason for the marijuana users rates is unknown. “We don’t know the mechanism,” Wang said, noting it could be an effect of the drug on the pulmonary system.

Nearly 11 percent of people in the United Staes suffer from substance use disorder, according to the report. “Additionally, studies from the early pandemic showed that patients with SUDs – including alcohol use disorder, cannabis use disorder, cocaine use disorder, opioid use disorder, and tobacco use disorder – were at increased risk for COVID-19 infection and associated severe outcomes, especially among African Americans.”

Health officials are stressing the importance of vaccination in order to prevent breakthrough infections among at-risk populations. Wearing masks and booster shots can help: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends booster shots for people 65 and older, as well as adults who are at high risk of severe complications.

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