Rate of opioid prescriptions written for COVID-19 long-haulers prompts addiction concerns

COVID-19 long-haulers, those who develop long-term symptoms after being infected with COVID-19, are being prescribed opioids at a rate that raises concerns about addiction, according to a recent study published in Nature.

About 10 percent of COVID-19 survivors develop long-term symptoms, leaving them suffering from health problems six months or longer after they've been diagnosed.

The study, published April 22, showed that for every 1,000 COVID-19 long-haulers treated at a Veterans Affairs facility, physicians wrote nine more opioid prescriptions than they would have otherwise. 

Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, the study's lead author and research and development chief at VA St. Louis, told Kaiser Health News he is worried that even a small increase of inappropriate opioid prescriptions among COVID-19 long-haulers could lead to an exacerbation of the country's opioid crisis, since there are millions of Americans currently living with long COVID-19.

The CDC released preliminary data April 14 showing more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending September 2020 — the highest annual death toll recorded since the opioid crisis started in the late 1990s.


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