While there is never a “safe” time to use illicit drugs, being exposed to a contagious disease can make it especially dangerous for a person to be in active addiction. There are a number of factors that could put people who use drugs in increased danger from infectious diseases of all types.
HarmReduction.org lists a number of ways that people who are actively using drugs could be in greater danger for contracting communicable diseases than the general population or for having worse reactions to the illnesses they contract. We’ve compiled below a summary of how drug users put themselves at risk.
- Sharing tainted equipment – especially in times when germs are known to be rampant, sharing equipment is an easy way to share illnesses.
- Close contact with others – those who finance their habits by performing sex work are at risk from all of the various bodily fluids they could come into contact with.
- Using alone – people who use drugs alone are more likely to die from an overdose than those who use with a friend, but during any time of social distancing, it might be difficult to decide how to balance these two conflicting issues.
- Less available medical care in case of overdose – when hospitals are overwhelmed with caring for those who contract illness, it could be even harder than usual for people who use drugs to get emergency medical treatment in hospitals.
- Not knowing the source – many people who are actively using don’t know the source of their drugs, so they don’t know if the person preparing their drugs was healthy or if the place drugs were prepared was properly sanitized.
- Unplanned detox – if a person should be unable to get drugs or their prescribed MAT, they may end up having no choice but to detox. If that detox is complicated by illness, the situation could quickly become life-threatening.
- Being immunocompromised – for many people, years of substance use may have taken a toll on their body, leaving them more susceptible to contracting illness.
While there are ways to minimize the dangers of contracting illness through drug use, the most obvious advice for health is to avoid illegal drugs. If you have been actively using drugs, seek treatment. Facilities like Safe Harbor Recovery Center can help you explore what level of treatment you need and which specific options might work best for you. We work with our clients to build unique, whole-person, customized treatment plans for their recovery journey.