The impact of long-term opioid use on the risk and severity of COVID-19.
Based on evidence of the immunosuppressive effects of chronic opioids, long-term users of prescription and illicit opioids comprise an unrecognized but growing population of Americans with compromised immune function and respiratory depression who may be at high risk of infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19)-related hospitalization, prolonged ICU stay, adverse events, and death. This perspective is of broad clinical and public health importance because the US has the highest population of long-term users of prescription opioids, a sequel of a decade-long practice of opioid overprescribing in the US. For long-term opioid users who are hospitalized for COVID-19, clinicians face clinical challenges arising from the suppressive effects of opioids on the respiratory and immune functions, as well as the potential for adverse drug-drug interaction when opioids have to be continued in long-term users. More research is needed to further understand the association of long-term opioid use and susceptibility to COVID-19 and other emerging infections.