Research Snapshot: People with overdose history may be at great risk of severe COVID-19 illness

What you need to know 

Canadian researchers analyzed provincial data to understand the prevalence of known risk factors associated with death due to COVID-19 among people who had a non-fatal overdose between 2015 and 2017 compared to people who didn’t have an overdose. The researchers looked at data from the Provincial Overdose Cohort from January 2015 to December 2017. They found that people who had experienced a non-fatal overdose were significantly more likely to have three of the four conditions known to increase the likelihood of severe COVID-19 illness. The three conditions were chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes and coronary heart disease.

 

This Research Snapshot was written by Rossana Coriandoli based on the article, “Overdose and risk factors for coronavirus disease 2019” which was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2020. Read it below or download the PDF

Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.

What is this research about?

British Columbia (BC) has made significant efforts to respond to two public health emergencies in the past year: one due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the other due to drug overdoses. Canadian researchers analyzed provincial data to understand the prevalence of known risk factors associated with death due to COVID-19 among people who had a non-fatal overdose between 2015 and 2017 compared to people who didn’t have an overdose. 

What did the researchers do?

The researchers looked at data from the Provincial Overdose Cohort from January 2015 to December 2017.

The Overdose Cohort contains de-identified data (personal information was removed) on people who had an illicit drug overdose in BC. It also includes a 20% random sample of BC residents.

The researchers used statistical methods to compare risk factors by overdose history.

What did the researchers find?

Of the 1,041,536 people included in the analysis, 19,005 had one or more non-fatal overdose event between 2015 and 2017. Among those who had an overdose, just over half had received social assistance and about half of those who received social assistance had no fixed address during that time. A higher proportion of people who had a non-fatal overdose were more than 50 years old and were male compared to people who didn’t have an overdose.

The researchers found that people who had experienced a non-fatal overdose were more likely to have three of the four conditions known to increase the likelihood of severe COVID-19 illness. The three conditions were chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes and coronary heart disease. People who experienced a non-fatal overdose were also more likely to have multiple chronic health conditions. The increased likelihood of having these conditions was statistically significant even after the researchers accounted for age and sex.

According to the researchers, the increased likelihood of risk factors related to underlying conditions is reflective of the social and health inequities that people who have a history of overdose experience.

How can you use this research?

This research would be useful to policymakers and program planners looking to reduce the costs associated with severe COVID-19 illness.

Limitations of the research

Overdose events and chronic health conditions are likely underestimated due to the limitations of administrative health data.

About the researchers

Amanda K. Slaunwhite,1,2 Wen Qi Gan,1 Chloe Xavier,1 Bin Zhao,1 Jane A. Buxton,1,2 Roshni Desai3

1. BC Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, BC

2. School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

3. First Nations Health Authority, Vancouver, BC

Keywords 

Addiction, substance use, overdose, chronic conditions, equity, inequity, chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes, and coronary heart disease

 

This Research Snapshot was written by Rossana Coriandoli based on the article, “Overdose and risk factors for coronavirus disease 2019” which was published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.10804