Study shows Opioid Addiction More Likely For People Who Had Covid-19
A study conducted on the survivors of COVID-19 has revealed many worrying aspects. This includes a huge rise in opioid use disorders.
Washington University School of Medicine and V.A. St. Louis Healthcare System researchers conducted a comprehensive study. The study was on the mental and physical health of patients who had and survived the COVID-19 infection.
They found that those who had suffered from COVID-19 were at a significantly higher risk of suffering from mental health illnesses. This was regardless of how serious their COVID-19 symptoms were.
The study conducted in March 2018-January2019 compared the mental health outcomes of more than 5.6 million patients. These people had not had the virus with a control group of 5.8 million people who the COVID-19 virus had infected.
The mental health outcomes were astounding and show a fuller picture of the true impact this virus has had on people’s overall lives and well-being.
In addition to opioid use disorders being more likely, studies found that those who had COVID-19 were also 60% more at risk of suffering from mental health problems. This was when compared to those not infected by the virus.
Mental health disorders that were identified within the control group of COVID-19-affected patients include:
- Sleep disorders
- Cognitive decline
- Drug, alcohol and opioid use disorders
- Suicidal ideation
The increase in anxiety-related disorders, sleep disorders, and depressive disorders coincided with a 55% increase in the use of antidepressants and a colossal 65% increase in benzodiazepines.
Additionally, it was found that people who had recovered from COVID-19 were 41% more likely to have continued problems with sleep. They were 80% more likely to experience a decline in cognitive function.
It is important to note that the full extent of the pandemic had not hit at the time of the study. Therefore, very few participants had been vaccinated against the virus. Vaccines were not widely available during this period.
The study was on a cross-section of participants. Whilst most were older white men. The study includes over 1.3 million women, 2.1 million patients of colour and large numbers of people of various age ranges (1)
COVID-19 infected people at higher risk of opioid use disorders
In addition to more prescribing of antidepressants and benzodiazepines for various mental and physical health problems, the study revealed that 34% of infected participants were more likely to develop an opioid use disorder.
Furthermore, 20% of infected participants were 20% more likely to develop a substance use disorder involving alcohol or illicit drugs. Is it any wonder, considering these statistics, that participants were 36% more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts.
“The virus can enter the brain and disturb cellular and neuron pathways, leading to mental health disorders.”
Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, Senior author of the study and a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said:
“To put this in perspective, COVID-19 infections likely have contributed to more than 14.8 million new cases of mental health disorders worldwide and 2.8 million in the U.S.”
The study’s findings suggest an intricate link between the COVID-19 infection and increased poor mental health. This includes an increase in substance abuse and opioid use disorders.
Ziyad Al-Aly also said of the studies findings:
“One of the leading hypotheses is that the virus can enter the brain and disturb cellular and neuron pathways, leading to mental health disorders” (1)
The mental health crisis hits a peak during and after COVID-19
Whilst the worst of the pandemic may be over. It is evident that the mental health crisis continues.
Nearly every one of us, whether we have had the virus or not, has impacted our mental health to some extent.
We all know at least one person who’s been gravely affected by the pandemic, whether they suffer from anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, or, as the study revealed, an opioid use disorder or benzodiazepine addiction.
Not only has the pandemic deeply affected the general public, but our very own mental health workers and services have also felt the strain.
Results from another study found that front-line nurses may also be at higher risk of adverse mental health outcomes during the pandemic. (2)
Many who suffer from an alcohol, opioid or substance use disorder experienced disruption to services during and after COVID-19.
Mental health and addiction services worldwide were already overstretched and underfunded before the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO (World Health Organisation) surveyed 130 countries across WHO’s six regions between June to August 2020.
Those who already suffered from an opioid, alcohol or substance use disorder were amongst many with mental health problems who suffered huge disruptions to services during the pandemic.
Other findings of the WHO survey revealed:
- Over 60% reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, children and adolescents (72%), older adults (70%), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61%).
- 67% saw disruptions to counselling and psychotherapy; 65% to critical harm reduction services
- 45% saw opioid agonist maintenance treatment disruptions for opioid use disorders and opioid dependence.
- More than a third (35%) reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes; and delirium
- 30% reported disruptions to access to medications for mental, neurological, substance and opioid use disorders.
- Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78% and 75%, respectively) (3)
Post-Covid – The current state of mental health and addiction services
While the private sector of addiction treatment and services is still performing as it should, sadly, the NHS has taken a real battering.
Whether it is a medical or mental health problem, normal service is far from back to normal.
Lengthily waiting lists only increase poor mental health, whether than be a treatment for a mental health disorder, an addiction or a physical health condition.
In many areas of the U.K., booking a routine appointment with a doctor can still be difficult. Add to that, many people during the pandemic neglected their health conditions, not wanting to burden the services further.
We really do have a mental health crisis on our hands.
- Research: Risks of mental health outcomes in people with covid-19: a cohort study – (https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj-2021-068993)
- A rapid review of the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of healthcare workers: implications for supporting psychological well-being –(bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-10070-3)
- COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey -(https://www.who.int/news/item/05-10-2020-covid-19-disrupting-mental-health-services-in-most-countries-who-survey)