Till now, the focus has been on the elderly and those with underlying health conditions when it came to underlining the people who are more susceptible to contracting coronavirus and developing serious symptoms.

But, as the majority of the world continues living in lockdown with even the “essential supplies” sparingly available, people who recovery from substance use disorders have been found to be at a higher risk during this pandemic as per experts.

“We keep talking about elderly individuals or individuals with preexisting conditions. What we’re learning from scientists is that substance use disorder is itself an underlying condition (for the coronavirus),” said Jessica Hulsey Nickel, founder of the Addiction Policy Forum.

So, as vital medicines and proper treatment becomes hard to come by, many have already relapsed and thus at a higher risk of developing severe coronavirus symptoms because of their stressed and suppressed immune system.

Many require medications like Suboxone or methadone but are finding that they are difficult to procure in the current scenario. And when it comes to treatment centers, they are already so overwhelmed and following social distancing protocols that they don’t have the patience to give these people the care they so desperately need.

With medicine and treatments not available, people recovering from substance abuse relapse, which puts them at risk for job and food insecurity, plus homelessness, marking them as high-risk targets of COVID-19. They are more likely to have severe symptoms, then be the ones to be hospitalized, and sadly, succumbing to the virus as a new data-driven analysis from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA and Boston University.

As per Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, lung damage caused by COVID-19 makes people who relapse more susceptible to die from an overdose, as methamphetamines in drugs hasten the damage and pulmonary hypertension as they constrict the blood vessels.

“The same advice we’re giving to our cancer and diabetes patients needs to be relayed to those who have an opioid or meth disorder,” Nickel said.

It doesn’t help that spaces used for 12-step meetings have been closed since the lockdown measures and not everyone is comfortable attending the meetings online, owing to the presence of Internet trolls.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Doctors New York, USA
Representational image. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

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