If you want to quit smoking or abusing drugs, the current COVID-19 pandemic is an added incentive. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, has outlined the unique challenges coronavirus poses to people who smoke, vape, have substance use disorder or who are in recovery from drug addiction.

Specifically, the doctor noted that people who smoke or vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine may face heightened risks of serious complications from COVID-19.

She explained that chronic opioid use already increases the risk of slowed breathing due to hypoxemia, which can lead to cardiac and pulmonary complications that may result in overdose and death.

Also, Volkow urges clinicians to be alert to the possibility of increased adverse COVID-19 outcomes in people who smoke, vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine.

Another complication for people in recovery is the physical distancing measure needed for COVID-19 mitigation eliminates the important element of social support needed for addiction recovery.

Additionally, people with opioid use disorder may face barriers to obtaining medications (i.e. buprenorphine or methadone) or obtaining services from syringe services programs.

Another complication of social distancing is that it will decrease the likelihood of observed overdoses; administration of naloxone to reverse overdose may be less likely, potentially resulting in more fatalities.

However, Volkow stressed that, like other vulnerable people in the United States, people with substance use disorder cannot be forgotten or marginalized during this crisis.

For a copy of the ideas and opinions article, “Collision of the COVID-19 and Addiction Epidemics,” authored by NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow and published in Annals of Internal Medicine, go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7138334/.

An editorial from The American Press, Louisiana.