At this point, virtually everyone is aware of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s dominating all media and most conversations. It’s so new that we only have speculation and information from other countries who were ravaged by it before us to rely on for prediction on what will happen and what to do. But given what we know so far, we can make some safe assumptions, particularly when it comes to what may make it worse or increase your chances of getting it in the first place.
Many are starting to raise the question of how smoking, vaping, or drug use could be a factor with this virus. And the answers seem to be a resounding warning of “they will make it worse”. And this is likely true. COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, and those who die from it do so primarily due to respiratory failure. So, it’s safe to assume that anything which compromises lung function will worsen your prognosis should you contract the virus.
Vaping and smoking harm the lungs, so the lungs are less efficient and absorb less oxygen. They also decrease their ability to clear foreign particles, such as a virus. So, someone who doesn’t smoke or vape may have a higher chance of fighting off the infection or being asymptomatic, whereas those who do may be more likely to both develop symptoms and have more severe consequences as a result. Smoking and vaping also kill off the cilia that exist in the nasal cavity and throat, which sweep away and aid in expelling foreign particles. Again, we see an increased risk.
Drug users may have a two-fold increase
First, they may be more likely to contract the virus due to increased exposure. Living a riskier lifestyle, they’re more apt to be exposed to it via drug supply, dealers, other users, homelessness, or just general carelessness regarding safe practices during these times.
Another factor is their weakened immune system due to drug use. Should they contract COVID-19, they’ll likely have a tougher time fighting it off and a higher mortality rate. If they smoke their drug of choice, they’re susceptible to the same risks as the smoker/vaper group. But additionally, opioid users could see the worst consequences.
Opioids on their own reduce lung function by nature of being a central nervous system depressant. There’s already a well-documented increased risk of pneumonia among opioid users. One can only imagine that a virus which attacks the lungs would have a similar or even higher risk among this population.
As you can see, the prognosis isn’t good. Given that America is in the middle of a drug epidemic, COVID-19 could create an even more significant impact here than anywhere else. We won’t know until it’s too late, but given what we do know, it’s safe to say their chances will be worse because of it. This isn’t a time to stop worrying about the drug epidemic or stop helping people who struggle with substance dependence.