Alcohol, nicotine, and COVID-19: A retrospective study of health outcomes in central Pennsylvania

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Individuals with substance abuse disorder are at increased risk for the development of severe disease following COVID-19 infection. Furthermore, individuals in rural populations where access to healthcare is limited and rates of substance abuse tend to be higher are at increased risk compared to other regions. The Penn State Health Network serves 29 counties in central Pennsylvania that are largely rural. The current study assessed the electronic medical records for individuals in this population that were reported as having alcohol dependence, nicotine dependence or both (co-users) in addition to individuals with no history of drug use and the rate of developing primary and secondary health outcomes following COVID-19 infection. All patients in this study were determined to be COVID+ while in care. We found that overall, risk for requiring ventilation, developing pneumonia, and mortality within 30 days of diagnosis all increased with any substance use history, across both males and females and across all age groups. Moreover, rates of these outcomes were considerably higher in patients that were both alcohol and nicotine dependent suggesting additive effects of co-use. Rates of secondary effects also increased substantially across all use categories with these patients showing greater risk of developing liver, kidney, and pancreas maladies compared to patients with no history of substance use. Taken together, these findings reinforce previous studies showing that substance use increases the risks of significant disease following COVID-19 infection, giving insights into the health disparities that exist in rural populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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