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Effects of Substance Use Disorder on the Immune System

Man comforting distressed woman.

With the COVID-19 outbreak taking place across the world, many people are questioning their health and whether they are at high risk. While the virus itself is very contagious, those with compromised immune systems should be on high alert as it is both easier for them to contract the virus and more difficult to recover. People currently seeking substance use disorder treatment and outpatient counseling should be aware of their chances of being immunocompromised during the days of this pandemic.

Means of Ingestion

While misuse of any substance can harm the human body, certain drugs can affect the immune system more harshly due to the way they are ingested. People who inject opioids and other drugs are more likely to have weakened immune systems due to the repeated exposure to viral infections like hepatitis B or C, as well as bacterial or fungal infections of open injection sites. Those who crush and snort opioids nasally are at much higher risk of developing upper respiratory infections due to damaged mucous membranes that would otherwise help shield the nose, throat and upper lungs from intrusive viruses and allergens.

Impact on Healing

Opioids themselves also pose a threat to the immune system as they have shown to suppress white blood cell count, leaving the body with weakened defenses against disease. Most people who struggle with addiction and substance misuse are more prone to neglect their health in other ways, including poor nutrition, lack of sleep, unclean living conditions along with other environmental factors. Addiction is a disease and many who struggle with it also have other chronic conditions. These conditions may make them much more vulnerable during an outbreak of a novel virus like COVID-19 and prevent them from being able to recover from its side effects and symptoms.

Precautionary Measures

Patients who are currently in outpatient treatment and visiting a methadone clinic daily or weekly are urged to follow the CDC guidelines to help prevent getting sick. Now that everyone is being urged to practice social distancing to stop the spread of this virus, it’s most important that patients who utilize public transportation, where still available, take measures to prevent contact with people or surfaces that may harbor COVID-19. MedMark clinics will work to ensure that facilities are sanitized to reduce the transmission of the virus. Additionally, many states are altering the regulations around take-home medication and telehealth visits to reduce the number of patients in clinic and out in the community.

During times of viral outbreaks such as COVID-19, it’s essential for substance users and patients in addiction treatment to consider their overall health when going into public spaces. Those who are particularly vulnerable are recommended to adhere to current “quarantine” practices limiting contact with others and large groups of people in order to protect their immune systems and wellbeing.

Contact Us To Learn More

The journey to recovery begins with an opioid addiction treatment center like MedMark Treatment Centers. We serve patients across the United States with compassion and evidence-based practices.

Learn more about us by contacting our staff today.

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