Substance Use Disorder & COVID Vulnerability

Lady in field thinking if her Substance Use Is a Problem

The impact of COVID-19 is unlike anything that we have experienced before. The pandemic’s impact has been devastating for the world as many people have lost their lives or their loved ones to the virus. There is a lot that we are still learning about the coronavirus. One cause of COVID vulnerability can be substance abuse.

COVID Vulnerability Due to Substance Abuse

However, it is widely known that people with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for getting very sick if they were to contract the illness [1]. Research shows that substance use disorders are an underlying condition that places people at increased risk of contracting the virus and becoming severely sick from it [2].

Substance use disorder is another term for addiction. While there are many things that someone can become addicted to, substance use disorder refers to an addiction to a substance. Some examples of substances are cannabis and alcohol. However, there are many other substances that people can become addicted to.

There are a few reasons that people who abuse substances are at a higher risk of suffering from COVID-19:

Woman thinking about how Substance abuse can cause COVID vulnerabilityHealth impact: COVID-19 is a virus that is believed to affect people’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems [2]. Unfortunately, these are two physical systems that are also negatively impacted by substance abuse [2]. If someone already has a compromised system, it is going to be more difficult for their body to heal from future damage.

Isolation: People who struggle with addiction tend to be more isolated from people and other resources [2]. This may be due to the stigma associated with substance use and addiction. This can also result from people becoming more wrapped up in their addiction and losing touch with their social life. Despite this, having a limited amount of personal or social support can make it more difficult to access medical care [2]. Medical care is necessary for some people when battling COVID-19. Not having access to proper medical care is going to make it more difficult to recover from this virus.

These unique risk factors are important for medical professionals to be aware of. It can be lifesaving for professionals to screen for and treat substance abuse when providing care for COVID-19.

While addiction can be difficult to recover from, it is possible. Giving individuals referrals for addiction treatment can help protect them from the devastating impact of addiction but also be a powerful way to lessen the impact of COVID-19.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020, November 4). Things to know about the covid-19 pandemic.

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, September 14). Substance use disorders linked to covid-19 vulnerability.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 30, 2020
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 30, 2020
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.