Substance Use Disorders Linked to Severe COVID Illness


When vaccinated, you can safely join in-person groups and return to normalcy.


In a recent National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) article, Dr. Nora Volkow addresses COVID-19 vaccines for those with substance use disorders (SUD). SUDs are among several health conditions the CDC identified as increasing the risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. NIDA analyzed health records from 73 million patients in U.S. hospitals and found those with SUDs (especially recent diagnoses) were at much higher risk of having COVID-19 or suffering its “severe illness”. According to the CDC, severe illness means a person may need:

  • Hospitalization
  • Intensive care
  • A ventilator to help them breathe
  • Or they may die


Because people with a history of experiencing stigma from the healthcare system due to an addiction may be hesitant, community leaders, healthcare providers, and others in the community must play a role in encouraging and facilitating vaccination for people with drug problems. The increased risks of COVID-19 infection to people with SUD have been established by a growing amount of data … this was especially true for Black people.

Dr Nora Volkow, Director NIDA


Substance Use Disorders and the Case for COVID-19 Vaccines

  • Anyone over the age of 12 is eligible to get a vaccine.
  • Vaccine hesitancy due to drug use and fear of mistreatment could prevent a life-saving measure.
  • In a recent Addiction Policy Forum survey, almost half of SUD respondents were unwilling to get a vaccine, but trusted their own doctors. Dr Volkow says, “Health professionals are in the best position to help persuade patients of the safety of the vaccines and of the many important benefits of becoming vaccinated.”
  • When vaccinated, you can safely join in-person groups and return to normalcy.
  • Vaccines are as safe and effective for those with SUDs, active users, and those on medication-assisted treatment as for others.
  • Those administering the COVID-19 vaccine will not ask about your substance use or medical history.


Read the NIDA Article – Click Below:









Sanford Behavioral Health is an addiction and co-occurring disorders, eating disorders and mental health treatment center. Sanford provides residential and outpatient programs in the Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in home-like, restorative settings. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause behavioral health conditions, such as trauma, anxiety, unhealthy relationships, and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.