People with substance abuse disorders are at greater risk of having complications with COVID-19

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The Drug Epidemic was a pressing issue prior to COVID-19 hitting our area, but the topic still deserves attention, maybe even more during the pandemic.

Dr. Zonaira Gul is the Infectious Disease Consultant at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital.

“Individuals who use IV drugs who have drug use disorder are particularly hit really hard by this infection,” Dr. Gul said.

Past and current drug addicts have weakened immune systems from their years of abusing drugs. This puts them in the ‘at risk’ category for the virus, and they could experience more serious symptoms.

“Their lungs are already compromised and COVID-19 infects the lung system,” Gul explained.

With doctor’s offices and clinics taking precautions by not seeing patients, they may not have access to their medical providers. They are less likely to reach out and ask for the help they need.

“There is a stigma associated with IV drug use as such already. These individuals are less likely to seek medical care in case they feel sick, not only for COVID-19 but for other illnesses as well,” Gul said.

Some doctors are offering Telehealth to their patients, but that may not be an option for drug addicts, due to lack of reliable internet. That is why some providers are reaching out in other ways to get them the help they need.

“It is important on our part as providers to provide these individuals with care,” Gul said.

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