Most of the deaths from this global pandemic so far have been among the elderly and those suffering from preexisting conditions due to being immunocompromised. Those with respiratory issues as a result of smoking and drug use may also be more likely to have complications from the virus.
Lung and cardiovascular disease have been associated with worse prognosis among patients with viruses similar to Corona, as in the 2003 SARS epidemic. According to recent data from China, the death rate from Corona among people with respiratory illnesses was 6.3% compared to 2.3% in the general population. Also in China, about 50% of men smoke, compared to about 2% of women, and the percentage of deaths among men was much higher compared to women.
E-cigarette smoking can also damage lung health and impede the body’s ability to fight infections. People who use opioid drugs (like Vicodin, morphine, or heroin) are also at higher risk of developing respiratory diseases. Opioids slow down breathing, and their use may lead to a dangerous drop in blood oxygen levels, which may be especially harmful to brain cells. The coronavirus may negatively impact opioid users who have weakened immune systems.
A history of using methamphetamine (meth) may also put people at higher risk. Methamphetamine shrinks the blood vessels, which can damage the lungs and cause pulmonary hypertension. This may also be a risk factor for COVID-19 complications.
Other risk factors that drug users face include less access to healthcare services, a higher chance of being homeless, and a higher chance of incarceration. If the healthcare system is fully engulfed in the coming weeks due to caring for patients affected by the virus, drug addicts, who already have stigmas, may be perceived as less worthy of treatment.
In terms of cigarettes, if you were ever planning to quit smoking, now might be the time. As is the case in most respiratory infections, the risk factor is higher among people who smoke and have a weaker immune system. While there is no definitive answer as to whether smoking makes people more susceptible to coronavirus, experts say that smoking certainly harms the immune system’s ability to fight infections, especially if they are respiratory infections. Smokers therefore are most likely to be more at risk of suffering complications from the virus, which causes respiratory infections and acute pneumonia.
In an interview with Business Insider magazine, Dr. Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist, said that any person with a history of smoking could increase the risk of serious respiratory disease or pneumonia. “Smoking is associated with other diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic heart disease, which can exacerbate the symptoms of coronavirus,” she explained.
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones during this difficult time. Encourage those who need help quitting to reach out to organizations that are working around the clock. Check out the resources from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) or let us know in the comments which resources you recommend. Stay safe and stay healthy!