Substance Misuse During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The ongoing uncertainty and tension of the corona pandemic have led to dramatic changes in the society we live in. Apart from the demand for more psychological health services, there is a significant rise in the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

According to our experts, people who abuse or misuse alcohol or drugs are more vulnerable to COVID19. While they are also prone to other serious health conditions, they are more likely to develop severe COVID19 symptoms. Eventually, they are at higher risk of hospitalization and mortality. 

According to the recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 13 percent of Americans reported that they have either started or increased their substance abuse to deal with stress and anxiety related to pandemics. The cases of overdoses have also spiked after the beginning of the pandemic. As per ODMAP, there is around an 18 percent rise in overdose incidences as compared to the same in 2019. This trend kept on increasing throughout 2020 all over the United States. According to the American Medical Association, more than 40 states in the country reported an increase in drug-related mortality and problems related to substance use disorders (SUD)

Moreover, many people have increased the amount and frequency of the substance they use. Some substance abusers have also turned to other substances (other than the one they normally use) because access to their usual substance has become difficult during the pandemic. 

Risk of Covid-19 And Severity

Drug abusers and people who sit together to use drugs are at more risk of developing Covid-19. What’s worse, if they are already suffering from underlying conditions such as serious heart diseases, chronic liver diseases, chronic lung diseases, substance abuse disorders, and more, they can get seriously ill because of Covid-19. As we all are aware, abusing drugs can have deadly consequences on the body. They include:

  • People who use substances through smoking or vaping are more susceptible to having diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases. Substances that are involved in these consumption methods are marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin, tobacco, etc.
  • Those who are more into using stimulants such as methamphetamine, amphetamine, cocaine, etc are at increased risk of developing serious health problems such as seizures, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, stroke, and other severe chronic conditions like heart disease, lung disease, etc.
  • Excessive use of opioids can lead to ineffective breathing, slow breathing, reduced oxygen levels in the blood, brain damage, and even death.
  • People who use drugs through injections are more vulnerable to diseases like HIV that severely affect the immune system. 

In short, substance abusers are at more risk of death or serious illness due to Covid-19.

Effects of Different Substances During Covid-19 Pandemic

There is a lot of stress associated with the lifestyle changes this pandemic has brought. Things such as social isolation, inability to meet loved ones, lockdowns, etc have made substance abuse disorder even worse. Substances like drugs and alcohol are becoming the coping mechanism of those who are struggling to face such changes. Ultimately, there is more risk of them falling prey to chronic illnesses, weakened immune systems, and increased stress on the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Let us now take a look at how different substances impact our bodies during the pandemic.

Smoking And Vaping

Many addicted individuals prefer smoking and vaping substances such as tobacco, marijuana, etc. While they are already at risk of lung diseases like asthma and cancer, vaping and smoking can cause severe damage to their lung cells and can lead to inflammation in lung tissues. As a result, the lungs’ ability to respond to certain infections reduces. Covid-19 attacks our lungs and that is why people who smoke or vape are at more risk of contracting this virus.


Cocaine addiction is dangerous for brain functions, lungs, and respiratory and cardiovascular systems. When people snort and smoke cocaine, it alters their brain and leads to constriction in the vascular system (capillaries, veins, arteries). In this process, their respiratory system and lungs get hit badly. Smoking cocaine poses even more dangerous risks as it can lead to several lung complications such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, pulmonary edema, hemorrhages, swelling, and more. If you or your loved one is into cocaine addiction, seek medical help as soon as possible as delay can lead to life-threatening consequences. Therefore, don’t wait! Know when to call an addiction hotline when necessary.


Alcohol consumers are at risk of contracting infections. The consumption of alcohol weakens their immune system and increases the vulnerability to the Covid-19 virus. People who are dependent on alcohol can suffer from withdrawal symptoms during the pandemic due to the limited access to alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are considered to be one of the most dangerous of all substances. It needs proper medical care to avoid serious consequences such as death.

Methamphetamines And Opioids

Excessive use of opioids leads to slow breathing due to a negative impact on the brain stem. This can cause a medical condition called hypoxemia, and it means decreased oxygen levels in the blood. Moreover, opioid abusers are at a greater risk of overdose the results of this are often life-threatening. 

As long as methamphetamine is concerned, people who abuse it can face serious health conditions as meth constricts blood vessels and causes hypertension and pulmonary damage.


In most cases, people who suffer from substance addiction also have other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, etc. Due to the constant flow of bad news during the Corona pandemic, such people can experience increased stress, worry, and anxiety. In such situations, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease tensions. Even though it can help them temporarily, substance abuse can have a deadly impact on their health in the long run. They need to engage in other, healthy activities to deal with depression, stress, or anxiety. They can consider taking a break from social media, news. Furthermore, they can try watching a comic movie, series, or reading a book, meditating, working on breathing exercises, calling a friend, etc.

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