Healthcare utilization patterns among persons who use drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Persons with drug use disorders are an underserved and stigmatized population, and the COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate these issues. The discussion around those with drug use disorders in the midst of the pandemic has focused on the need to ensure uninterrupted treatment access; however, very few in this population actually receive treatment, and retention is a substantial issue among those who do. Evidence from other chronic conditions suggests persons at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications are foregoing care due to fear of contracting the virus. Persons with drug use disorders tend to fall into this high-risk category, and thus may be avoiding healthcare facilities. Our data suggest this is true. If so, adverse outcomes, and increased severity of use disorders and associated health complications, could become prevalent. Clinicians should identify persons with drug use disorders who may be foregoing treatment, and engage them using methods that minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.