People who use illicit drugs, whether they are dependent or use them occasionally, are potentially at increased risk of harm during the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus is too new to know the exact interaction with illicit drugs. There has been no peer reviewed research yet, and we don’t know how many people who have contracted the virus also use drugs.
However, we can estimate some of the possible impacts from what we know generally about drugs, their effects on the body, and how people use them, including in times of increased stress.
Regardless of your views on illicit drugs, reducing the harms from drug use during the pandemic will improve the well-being of people who use them, and those close to them. Reducing harms will also help avoid additional pressure on the health system.
People are more likely to take illicit drugs (and drink alcohol) during times of stress. So it’s not surprising that, with isolation, boredom and financial worries, some people might increase their use of illicit drugs.
Illicit drugs have also been linked with domestic and family violence.
It’s a complex relationship between the two, but illicit drugs may interact with current stress, unemployment and spending long periods together in lockdown to further increase the risk.
So people who use drugs are more at risk of getting, and having complications from, COVID-19.
The coronavirus also weakens the lungs so people who use drugs may be more vulnerable to lung complications from COVID-19.
People who have a lung disease are also at more risk of overdose from some illicit drugs, such as heroin.
So if you contract COVID-19 and your lungs are affected, if you then use illicit drugs you potentially increase the risk of drug-related complications, such as overdose.
People with long-term drug problems are at greater risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.
People with additional chronic health problems are more likely to die from COVID-19.
Some drugs are commonly shared. For example, a cannabis joint or bong is sometimes shared between a group of people.
As COVID-19 is spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, sharing drugs and equipment can increase the risk of contracting the virus.
There are a number of possible impacts of coronavirus-related changes to supply, including changes to drug availability and price.
We might expect a reduction in supply to lead to an increase in price, which then tends to reduce demand. So, some people who use illicit drugs occasionally may decide to reduce or stop their use when it gets too expensive, or they may switch to more readily available drugs made locally.
If you are able to, it is safest to stop using drugs during the current pandemic. If you continue to use drugs there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of harm.
The original content published on theconversation.com.