Journal examines effect pandemic will have on addiction treatment

An opinion piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine outlines how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the drug overdose death epidemic.

The article was written by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Those who are recovering from addiction, already are struggling with substance-use disorders, or smoke or vape will be particularly challenged, Volkow said, but cannot be forgotten or marginalized during this crisis.

Volkow pointed out the potentially adverse effects of the pandemic on this group.

Social distancing likely will increase fatal overdose because administration of naloxone to reverse overdose will be less likely. Social distancing also could eliminate the social support needed for addiction recovery.

It may become more difficult for recovering addicts to obtaining medications or services from syringe-services programs.

People who smoke, vape, or use opioids or methamphetamine will have a heightened risk for compromised lung conditions from COVID-19.

Chronic opioid use increases the risk of slowed breathing, which can cause cardiac and pulmonary complications and eventually overdose and death.

Volkow applauded the health community’s efforts to reduce challenges for those in recovery. She also urged high-risk groups to take precautions to prevent exposure to COVID-19.