People with substance issues ‘may be at higher risk’ of COVID

The risk of ‘SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infection’ (COVID-19) among fully vaccinated people may be higher for ‘people who misuse substances such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and opioids’, according to recent research.

man smoking a joint
The risk of COVID-19 may be higher for ‘people who misuse substances such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and opioids’,

The findings are based on analysis of the electronic health records of almost 580,000 fully vaccinated people by researchers at the New Case Western Reserve University and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the US.

Co-occurring health conditions and ‘adverse socio-economic factors’ are likely to be largely responsible for the increased risk of infection, says the study, which is published in the journal World Psychiatry. Although infection rates for people with substance use disorders were still low overall they did have ‘elevated rates of severe outcomes, including hospitalisation and death’. With waning vaccine immunity and a ‘high comorbidity burden in the US population – six in ten adults have a chronic disease – it is important to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and the long-term effects of COVID-19’, said the study’s lead author, Rong Xu.  

Meanwhile, Almost 8m people have died in the UK as a result of smoking since 1971, according to new analysis commissioned by ASH to mark its 50th anniversary. The next two decades will likely see 2m more people die ‘without radical changes to smoking rates’, the charity states, with the government’s pledge to make England ‘smoke-free’ by 2030 unlikely to be met.

‘Government knew about the terrible harms from smoking in the 1950s but it took the tireless efforts of campaigners to bring about change,’ said chief executive Deborah Arnott. ‘Today, we have a government with a vision to make smoking obsolete, but vision alone is not enough. Two years ago the government committed to “bold action” to “finish the job”, including the option of a “polluter pays” levy on the tobacco industry. When will it deliver on this promise?’.

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