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Substance use raises the risk of severe COVID-19

A woman looks at the camera seriously.

Substance use disorders are among the underlying medical conditions that can raise the risk for severe COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means that people who misuse drugs or alcohol can be more likely to become severely ill. For instance, they might have to go to a hospital and be on a ventilator to breathe.

Why the raised risk?

Substance use can harm or weaken the body. For instance, opioid use can cause slowed breathing. And smoking or vaping can make lung problems worse. This may make people more prone to get very sick from COVID-19.

Substance use disorders can also lead to other chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that also increase the risk from COVID-19.

Plus, people with substance use disorders often gather with others or may live in shared housing. So they might have more chances to be exposed to the virus.

Don't delay getting help

If you have a substance use disorder, talk with your doctor about how to lower your risk for COVID-19. And get a vaccine as soon as you're eligible.

If you're not sure whether substance use is a problem for you, try taking this assessment. And know that help is available, even during the pandemic. Substance use treatment centers and clinics are taking steps to keep patients and staff safe. Virtual support is also an option in many places.

For help finding treatment, visit or call 800.662.HELP (800.662.4357).

Reviewed 9/26/2021

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