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Addiction during COVID-19

Written By: Simone Sonnier, UT Physicians | Updated: April 30, 2020
addiction during covid

While we may all be facing challenges to our daily lives due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, those going through addiction and treatment are encountering issues that could cause potential relapses. Michael F. Weaver, MD, addiction medicine specialist at UT Physicians, explains the risk those with substance use disorder (SUD) have when it comes to the virus and offers advice for this difficult time.

Risk factors

Michael F. Weaver
Michael Weaver, MD

According to Weaver, when it comes to determining if those with SUD are at a higher risk for COVID-19, he says the short answer is yes. Many substances, like marijuana and vaping nicotine, affect the lungs’ capacity to fight infection.

“If you’re participating in activities that make your lungs vulnerable, then you are at a higher risk,” said Weaver, who’s also a professor and medical director at the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction for the Louis A. Faillace, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Importance of mental and physical health

Keeping up a routine and taking account of their mental health is extremely important for SUD patients during this time. “More free time, anxiety, and boredom are all big triggers,” said Weaver.

Recovery is all about continuing to make an effort despite the changes in your life. Weaver suggests keeping up with self- help support group meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery) as many have moved to a virtual platform, staying in touch with your physician, and practicing mindfulness.

Seeking care

Just like many other providers at UT Physicians, Weaver is now seeing patients via telehealth appointments. “I’m happy to say that my patients have adapted to virtual care or phone appointments. It’s the best way to continue to care for them while they are in the comfort of their own home.”

For those who are actively using, regardless of COVID-19, this is still a good time to seek help. Treatment facilities have remained open.

“If you are concerned about you or your loved one, help is available no matter what else is going on in the world,” said Weaver.

For more resources regarding SUD, please visit the website for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

To schedule a telehealth appointment, go here.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.