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COVID-19 Risks

Lung virus infection and coronavirus outbreak
In This Article

When actively using, drug addicts and alcoholics are put at risk for all different types of diseases, disorders, viruses, and illnesses. The immune system is compromised. Drugs and alcohol can leave the body vulnerable and unable to fight off even a common cold. With the outbreak of COVID-19 it may be leaving us wondering, how at risk are we?

What is COVID-19?

CoronaViruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illness in animals and humans. CoronaVirus is a broad term. COVID-19 is a specific strain from the family of CoronaViruses. COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China. It has now quickly spread from country to country. COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC. The virus spreads easily traveling on respiratory droplets produced by a cough or a sneeze. Symptoms are coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Symptoms usually begin between 2-14 days after exposure. Older adults and people of any age with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease, are at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

What Can I Do?

Coronavirus prevention medical surgical masks and hand sanitizer

There is a lot of anxiety surrounding this virus. Things like anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and face masks flying off of the shelves are proof of this anxiety. People are recommended to self quarantine for at least 2 weeks. This means taking off work or working from home. There are a few simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time. Singing Happy Birthday twice while washing your hands is a good way to get to that 20 seconds.
• If you begin feeling sick stay home and call a healthcare provider.
• Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and then wash your hands as soon as possible.
• Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, cell phones, TV remotes, and light switches.
• Change and wash hand towels often.
• Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Some of these tips may sound like common sense. However, it is important to be reminded because a lot of these things we do without noticing, like touching our faces.

How Does This Apply To Addicts and Alcoholics?

Consider the risky behaviors addicts and alcoholics take part in on a daily basis. These put them at a higher risk to contract viral infections, bacterial infections, and other diseases. Behaviors like sharing pipes or needles and unprotected sex are extremely risky. The elderly and people with preexisting conditions are at the highest risk to contract COVID-19. Unfortunately, it is common among addicts to have these underlying conditions.

Diseases and disorders like Hepatitis C and compromised livers leave the immune system weakened. With how quickly COVID-19 is spreading among the general population is it truly concerning for addicts and alcoholics. For example, there is a state that shut down liquor stores statewide and there was a panicked response to that. People flooded the liquor stores before they closed and there were lines out the door. That was a nightmare considering the risk all those people took to stock up on liquor.

For drug addicts, they are still traveling around to get their drug of choice. Another concern is how the drugs they use affect their bodies. Addicts that smoke their drugs of choice are at a higher risk for any respiratory infection.

Addicts and alcoholics are at a greater risk for homelessness and incarceration. This can lead to decreased access to proper healthcare. The homeless and prisoners do not have a safe place to self quarantine. Also, the homeless population do not have effective access to soap and water leaving them at a much higher risk.

The homeless, the incarcerated, addicts, and alcoholics can be at a higher risk to come into contact with people that are already infected. People with substance abuse problems may even face more of a challenge to receive healthcare, due to addiction being already stigmatized. We may not want to think about or recognize that stigma, but unfortunately it does exist.

Getting Help

If there were ever a time to reach out for help it is now. Getting sick is something addicts and alcoholics do not address on a regular basis. Addiction will always change priorities. This does not mean that people suffering from addiction do not care. It means, now more than ever, they need help. A rehab or an inpatient program is the place to be for an addict or alcoholic right now.

They can receive help with any underlying illnesses that put them at a higher risk to contract COVID-19. They can also get help with withdrawal symptoms. Detox can help decrease the number of relapses within that first week. Rehabs and other inpatient programs are taking the necessary precautions to keep their patients safe.

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