COVID Vaccines and Drug Abuse
Just like COVID itself has been polarized, so too are the vaccines to prevent the spread of the dangerous airborne virus. But are those who struggle with drug abuse and/or who are faced with comorbidities like mental health issues able to receive one of the COVID vaccines?
Several studies have shown that individuals with a serious substance use disorder (SUD) or a serious mental illness (SMI) are at a higher risk for contracting “COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and death.”
It’s estimated that there are between 0.4% and 7.7% of individuals facing serious mental disorders, according to the World Mental Health Survey.
At American Addiction Centers (AAC), a nationwide leader in addiction treatment with professional staff and licensed physicians, we are compassionate towards the needs of those battling an SUD and co-occurring health disorders–even through this pandemic. Additionally, we’ve followed the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and have taken COVID safety precautions for both patients and staff. If you’re in need of help with a drug addiction, please reach out for help.
COVID and Drug Addiction
The question that many may have: Is getting the vaccine safe for those addicted to drugs? According to the CDC, individuals who abuse drugs and live in group settings are in a high risk category for exposure to the virus. A substance use disorder (SUD) is considered an underlying medical condition just as much as serious heart conditions, chronic lung disease, or even chronic liver disease are.
- Stimulants (e.g., cocaine, meth) can cause heart attacks, strokes, chronic conditions to both the lungs and heart.
- Vaping/smoking (e.g., marijuana, crack cocaine) may worsen asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Injecting drugs increases the risk of HIV, a virus which directly impacts immune response.
- Use of opioids can cause ineffective breathing, resulting in a decrease of oxygen in the blood, and ultimately brain damage or death.
The combination of any of the above health problems mixed with the complication brought on by COVID-19, a virus which directly impacts an individual’s ability to breathe in many cases, can be dangerous.
As of the end of April 2021, vaccine eligibility has opened up to the entire U.S. population in every state. However, because SUDs are considered an underlying medical condition, those addicted to substances were some of the first to be prioritized for the vaccine. This was based on the CDC’s recommendation, which was based upon the recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP is an independent panel of public and medical health experts.
COVID-19 is contagious and still part of our reality, even with the availability of vaccines. Likewise, substance use disorders are also part of reality for many Americans. As with anything health-related, consult a licensed physician to make sure you’re making healthy choices for your body. Just keep in mind that it’s always best to make decisions about your health based on facts, science, and professional medical guidance.
If you, or a loved one, is struggling with a substance use disorder, you’re not alone. There are resources here to help you to achieve long-term sobriety and to live a healthy and productive life, throughout this pandemic and beyond.