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NCDA: Drug users, smokers more at risk for coronavirus

Published:Thursday | March 19, 2020 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak which has emerged as a significant global threat, killing close to 1,000 persons globally, appears to be an even greater threat to persons who smoke or use narcotics, especially minors, says the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA).

Suzanne Brown, substance abuse officer in the NCDA’s western regional office, said smokers would be particularly affected by COVID-19, which is a respiratory disease, due to the damage their lungs would have already suffered from their lifestyle habits. “COVID is a lung infection, and because the virus attacks the lungs, for a person who smokes marijuana or tobacco or who vapes, the effect on them would be far greater than for a normal person. Once the individual has a substance use disorder, they may experience more complications,” said Brown.

“On a body that is not fully developed, vaping and smoking can create more serious complications and harm to their lung functions and their lung health overall. Because the body and brain (of a young person) are still being developed, using these substances can create problems for the developing body and brain, and with the presence of a virus where you would need your immune system to be strong, we see where there can be complications,” said Brown, in making a special appeal as it relates to minors.

Hygienic Practices

Dr Marcia Johnson-Campbell, the medical officer of health for St James, said substance abusers would likely be more endangered by the virus because they may not adhere to necessary hygiene practices while under the influence.“Substance abusers’ hygienic practices might make them more vulnerable, because you have some substance abusers who, when they are on their high, and depending on what they are using, would not adhere to handwashing, social distancing, or covering their mouth when coughing. Those are the things we would want persons to be adhering to, and they (substance abusers) would be more at risk,” said Johnson-Campbell.COVID-19, which has caused approximately 194,500 infections worldwide so far, is part of a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome.The common signs of infection include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the infection may cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and death.