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People with addiction disorders are at greater risk for COVID-19 and more likely to become seriously ill if infected, a new study finds.
The researchers analyzed non-identifiable electronic health records of more than 73 million patients in the United States. People with addiction disorders accounted for just over 10% of those in the study, and nearly 16% of COVID-19 cases.
People with a recent addiction disorder diagnosis were more likely than others to develop COVID-19, and the connection was strongest among those with opioid and tobacco use disorders, the findings showed.
The study also found that people with an addiction disorder were more likely to be hospitalized with or die from COVID-19.
Study co-author Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, said people with addiction disorders often have compromised lungs and cardiovascular systems, which may contribute to their heightened susceptibility for COVID-19.
"Another contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services," she said in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Black people with a recent opioid use disorder diagnosis had more than four times the risk of COVID-19 than white people, the study found. High blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease -- all risk factors for COVID-19 -- were more common among Black patients than whites with opioid use disorder.
The NIH-funded study was published Sept. 14 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The authors suggested that health care providers closely monitor patients with addiction disorders and take steps to protect them from coronavirus infection and severe outcomes.
"It is incumbent upon clinicians to meet the unique challenges of caring for this vulnerable population, just as they would any other high-risk group," Volkow said in the news release.