COVID-19 risk higher for people with mood and substance use disorders

Published February 3, 2022



Living with disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy.

According to recent research:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of people diagnosed with substance use disorders and mental health disorders
  • Substance use disorders and mental health disorders increase the risk of severe COVID-19

Keep reading to see how these two illnesses interact with COVID-19.

Addiction is a risk factor for COVID-19 infection and severe COVID-19

According to Ken Zoucha, MD, director of the Addiction Division, the number of people needing help for substance disorders has increased significantly since the onset of COVID-19.

What's more, having a substance use disorder can make getting COVID-19 more likely. A study showed that people with substance use disorders had 10 times higher risk of COVID-19 infection. People experiencing addiction may also be more susceptible to severe COVID-19

Mood disorders increase the risk of severe COVID-19

The pandemic is a wide-scale event causing stress. COVID-19 has been implicated in causing new mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Many health care providers, in particular, are suffering from PTSD, anxiety and depression.

The COVID-19 illness itself can also cause mental health illness. One study found 18% of COVID-19 patients developed a mental health issue – like depression, anxiety or dementia – within three months of their diagnosis.

Mental health disorders are among other underlying medical conditions linked to a higher risk for severe COVID-19. A large study found that having an existing mood disorder increased the risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

The Intensive Outpatient Program offers hope and healing

There is good news. The Nebraska Medicine Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers hope to those living with both mental health and substance disorders. 

Patients get an individualized treatment plan created by a team of addiction psychiatrists, therapists and nurses. You can continue living at home while engaging in comprehensive treatment for both types of disorders.

Due to COVID-19, the IOP meets virtually. "There are challenges, but many patients also like the flexibility that comes with it," says Dr. Zoucha. "We  can treat people in a very similar way as in-person visits with this platform, including in the behavioral health area, so even if they're afraid to go out they can still get the help they need."

People struggling with anxiety or depression alongside substance use disorders often require more support than weekly or monthly outpatient clinic visits, but don't need hospitalization. This unique program meets that need. The program meets four days a week, three hours per day, for six weeks.

Get support for mental illness and addiction – at the same time
Our Intensive Outpatient Program addresses both disorders using an outpatient treatment plan. To schedule an appointment for an evaluation, call 800.922.0000.