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Opioid use disorder increases the risks from COVID-19, especially for those not receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

A study of electronic health records from 52,312 COVID-19 patients in the US showed that those with opioid use disorder (OUD), especially younger patients, fared worse on most measures of disease impact. In the sample, drawn from the Cerner Real-World Data database, which collects de-identified electronic health record information from a wide group of hospitals, 1.9% of patients had an OUD diagnosis. Compared to patients without an OUD, OUD patients with COVID-19 were overall more likely to be admitted to the hospital, stayed in the hospital longer, were more likely to require a ventilator, and were more likely to die from their disease. When broken down by age group:

  • Patients below age 45 were 5.1 times as likely to require hospitalization, 2.70 times as likely to require a ventilator, and 3.23 times as likely to die
  • For patients between ages 45 and 64, the corresponding odds were 3.43, 1.5, and 0.90 (not significant)
  • For patients 65 and over, they were 2.44, 0.95 (NS), and 1.24 (NS)

OUD patients who were not receiving medication-assisted treatment fared worse that those who were receiving it.

“The concurrent overdose crisis and global pandemic require special attention to people who use drugs,” the authors concluded. “This study underscores the precariousness of individuals at the intersection of these health crises; people with OUDs are not only at risk for overdoses, which have soared during the pandemic, this population is also at risk for worse COVID-19 outcomes, especially when not receiving [opioid agonist treatment]. COVID-19 efforts tailored to populations who use opioids that focus on expanded treatment access may have a significant effect on reducing the inequitable outcomes found in this research.”



Qeadan F, Tingey B, Bern R, Porucznik CA, et al. Opioid use disorder and health service utilization among COVID-19 patients in the US: A nationwide cohort from the Cerner Real-World Data. EClinicalMedicine. 2021 Jun 4