The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday, March 11 that the new coronavirus is now officially a global pandemic.1 In the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases outside of China have increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled.
What is Coronavirus?
The new coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, causes a respiratory illness called coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated COVID-19). It was first detected in China in 2019 and has now spread to more than 100 different locations around the world, including the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals and people. On rare occasions, an animal coronavirus can infect a human and then spread from person to person, which is what happened with SARS-CoV-2 (this new coronavirus).2
The very first infections were linked to an animal market in Wuhan, China and health officials have since determined that COVID-19 is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and bodily fluids that linger on surfaces.
In February of 2020, health officials reported “community spread” of the new coronavirus in the U.S., which means people are spreading the disease without knowing the source of the infection.
In a public statement on March 11, 2020, the WHO elevated the status of COVID-19 to a pandemic and said it expects to see the number of cases, deaths, and countries affected climb even higher than it already has.
As of March 11, 2020:
- There are 126,300 coronavirus COVID-19 cases worldwide.3
- Worldwide, 4,633 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 and 68,285 have recovered.3
- Currently, the five countries with the most COVID-19 cases include China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, and France.3
- There are currently 938 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States and 29 deaths.4
- The only U.S. states that have not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 to the CDC are Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, and Maine.4
What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are symptoms of COVID-19:5
- Shortness of breath
Most of the available information suggests that the majority of COVID-19 cases are mild, but older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions may be at higher risk to develop severe illness.
In more severe cases, coronavirus can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pneumonia, and fatal kidney failure. The symptoms usually appear within two days to two weeks of first exposure.
If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, you recently traveled to an area that has been affected, or you have been in contact with a person who may have COVID-19, please call your doctor for recommendations on next steps.
Substance Abuse and COVID-19
Drug and alcohol abuse are closely related to serious public health concerns like COVID-19. Many addictive substances can damage the immune system and cause the body to become more susceptible to certain infections. As a result, people who actively abuse drugs or alcohol may be more like to contract this new virus or experience more severe symptoms.6,7
Abusing the following substances may increase a person’s risk of infection.
- Nicotine: Smoking cigarettes regularly can cause upper respiratory problems and inhibit the body’s immune system response to other infections. This could result in a more severe case of COVID-19 if a smoker is infected.8
- Marijuana: Similarly, smoking marijuana can cause upper respiratory problems like chronic bronchitis. One study also found that marijuana suppresses the immune system, leading to a higher risk of infections in people who are addicted to marijuana.9
- Opioids: Morphine and related opioid drugs directly affect white blood cells, which reduces the immune system’s ability to fight off infections.10 Crushing and snorting narcotics can also damage the mucous membranes in the nose, throat, and upper lungs and increase a person’s risk of experiencing upper respiratory infections.
- Cocaine: Smoking crack cocaine can cause lung damage and severe respiratory problems, which can ultimately make fighting off COVID-19 more difficult.11
- Alcohol: Consistent alcohol abuse can damage the liver and pancreas, leading to further immune system problems.12
According to the National Institute on Drug Use and Health (NIDA), other drugs that can affect the respiratory system include:13
Should I Delay Going to Rehab Because of Coronavirus?
Deciding when and where to go to drug rehab is a very personal decision, so while we cannot advise you on what you should do, we can say with certainty that a rehab center is still an ideal place for you to be if you are struggling with addiction.
Putting off your addiction treatment until the coronavirus pandemic is under control could mean waiting weeks, months, or even a year or longer to address your substance abuse problems. No one knows exactly how long this pandemic will last, so postponing treatment could have serious implications for your physical and mental health.
During this time, you could face an increased risk of infection, other serious health problems caused by substance abuse, or overdose. Unfortunately, the U.S. mortality rate for drug overdose is 21.7 percent, which is still far higher than that of the new coronavirus, which is currently estimated to be 0.1 to 1 percent in America, according to U.S. health officials.14,15
If you are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness but would also like to address your addiction problems, you should call your doctor for medical advice on how to proceed before you enroll in any addiction treatment program.
How Can I Avoid Getting or Spreading Coronavirus?
Health experts have determined that the new coronavirus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets and bodily fluids. Here are some best practices to avoid contracting COVID-19 or spreading it.
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
- Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose whenever possible.
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60%).
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is showing signs of respiratory illness.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Stay home if you are sick (except to get medical care).
- Establish plans to adapt to major lifestyle disruptions, such as working from home, ordering groceries online, or canceling travel plans.
Addiction Recovery Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
Drug and alcohol addiction can weaken your immune system’s response to viruses like COVID-19. Although it is extremely important to know the signs of coronavirus, minimize your exposure, and follow the CDC’s prevention tips, it’s also important to treat your addiction and restore your body to its optimal health so it can fight off infection.
Nova Recovery Center offers several different options for addiction treatment including medical detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, and sober living programs. Our staff is taking proactive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and all team members have been trained on the most effective ways to maintain a healthy and safe environment within our treatment facilities. We consistently prioritize cleanliness, sanitization, and handwashing to prevent any spread of illness. We have also implemented additional screening processes to protect the health and wellbeing of current clients and staff members.
If you’re ready to confront your addiction or you have questions about how we are handling substance abuse treatment services during the COVID-19 emergency, call (512) 605-2955 to learn more about your treatment options.