As the COVID-19 vaccines continue to be rolled out across the country and the globe, most American adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. But for others, there’s still some hesitancy, and part of the issue is that people living with substance use disorders aren’t sure if it’s safe to be vaccinated against COVID-19 while still abusing drugs.
Today, we’re going to review the current literature and see what the research says about how drug abuse can affect COVID-19 and coronavirus vaccination. Keep reading for answers!
How Does Drug Addiction Affect COVID-19?
There is clear evidence that individuals who are actively addicted to drugs see worse health outcomes when infected with COVID-19. During a mild infection (which is what most healthy adults experience), individuals may show no symptoms or minor symptoms such as:
- Fever or chills
Unfortunately, individuals who frequently abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of COVID-19. Some of these COVID-19 effects include:
- Serious trouble breathing
- Struggling to wake up or stay awake
- Chest pain, especially chest pain that worsens when trying to take deep breaths
- Confusion and delirium
And of course, those who experience severe COVID-19 symptoms are more likely to die due to COVID-19 complications. All of this is worrying, but what makes people who abuse drugs more likely to have negative health outcomes with the novel coronavirus?
Why Do Drugs Make COVID-19 Worse?
There are a few reasons why individuals with substance use disorders are more likely to experience COVID-19 complications.
The first thing to consider is that drug and alcohol abuse often coincides with various health issues. This is especially true in people with long-term addiction, since drugs and alcohol do more damage over time. These addiction-related health problems (e.g. liver diseases and lung diseases) can weaken the body and make it less effective at fighting off viruses like COVID-19, which in turn leads to worse health outcomes.
However, it’s not just people with chronic substance abuse issues who should be concerned. Even when used in the short term, drug abuse can still greatly affect how your body responds to the novel coronavirus. Of course, how drugs affect the body depends on the substance taken. Some examples of this include:
- A common side effect of opioid abuse is slowed or difficult breathing. This can lead to decreased oxygen in the blood and brain, which can be worsened by COVID-19, which may increase breathing troubles.
- Stimulants like cocaine and amphetamine are not any safer. These drugs, particularly with higher dosages, can cause heart attacks, strokes, and seizures, as well as chronic heart health issues. In this way, stimulants weaken the body and make it harder for the immune system to fight off strains of the coronavirus.
- When taken via smoking, drugs like heroin, cocaine, and crack can lead to lung conditions that make the lungs more susceptible to long-term damage from COVID-19.
All of these factors play a role in why people with substance use disorders, on average, see worse health outcomes with COVID-19. So clearly, getting vaccinated should be a priority for individuals who struggle with substance abuse.
But is it safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine while addicted to drugs or alcohol? Let’s delve into what researchers know about this issue.
Should I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine if I’m on Drugs?
The good news is that with more than 262 million doses of the vaccine administered in the US alone, and with millions more being vaccinated every day, there have been no documented cases of a person having adverse health effects due to drug use.
The other side of that coin, however, is that there has been no reputable study conducted that looks at how vaccines affect people who continue to use drugs or abuse alcohol. That isn’t good or bad news: It just means that more research is needed in this area.
But with about five million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Ohio, the fact that there are no examples of negative side effects due to drug or alcohol abuse is a very promising sign. And compared to the clearly increased risk of negative side effects in actual cases of COVID-19 in individuals with substance use disorders, it is very likely that being vaccinated, even if you regularly take illicit drugs, is safer than waiting to be vaccinated.
Of course, protecting your health should not end with your COVID-19 vaccination. As we have established, chronic alcohol and drug abuse can have profoundly negative effects on your physical well-being. And if you want to safeguard your health, the only thing to do is to get professional help.
Protect Your Health with Addiction Treatment
Regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, drugs and alcohol can do a lot to damage your health, especially when taken in large amounts over long periods of time. But most people know that, so why is quitting so hard?
In many cases, this is due to dual diagnosis or co-occurring conditions: mental health and substance use disorders that develop together and worsen each other. For example, someone living with anxiety might start drinking to cope with the stress. Over time, they would become reliant on alcohol, which would increase their anxiety, and push them even further into substance abuse.
This cycle is strong, but it can be broken, especially with professional dual diagnosis treatment. At our mental health and addiction treatment center in Georgetown, Ohio, we have developed an inpatient treatment program that comprehensively addresses both the effects and the root causes of addiction and mental illness. In this way, we empower individuals to change their lives with evidence-based therapies that take personal situation and recovery goals into account.
Some of our proven treatment modalities include:
- Daily therapeutic activities
- Relapse prevention programming
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Discharge planning
Taking care of your health is vital, regardless of your age or existing health issues. At Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, we want to help you live the healthiest, most satisfying life possible. That’s always the goal of our treatment programs, and we’re ready to work with you to make that a reality.
Are you ready to take the next step in your recovery? Chat with our friendly admissions specialists at 937-483-4930 or ask your questions online. You deserve good health; now all you have to do is take the next step into a healthy lifestyle!