People who have substance abuse disorders might be at higher risk for dangerous effects of COVID-19, according to new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
The new study was published in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Researchers reviewed health data from more than 54,000 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between Feb. 20 and June 30, according to the medical branch.
Their analysis revealed that people with substance abuse disorders were more often hospitalized and put on ventilators. They also died at higher rates.
The higher risks aren't tied to drug use alone, according to the researchers.
People who have substance abuse disorders also are more likely to be homeless, to live in overcrowded conditions, to be incarcerated or to have poor access to health care. All those factors are associated with higher rates of infection.
Substances such as opioids, benzodiazepines, methamphetamines, alcohol and tobacco can damage a person's respiratory, cardiovascular and immune systems. If those systems already are weakened, it might help contribute to more serious effects from COVID-19, researchers said.
Having better information about the risk factors for serious complications can help experts develop new approaches for fighting the epidemic, researchers said.