Vaping Can Increase the Risk of Developing Coronavirus—and Make the Infection Worse for Those Who Contract It

Health experts say that vaping can increase the risk of developing Coronavirus by compromising the respiratory system—and infections from the virus could be worse for vapers, according to Gándara Center, the host agency for the Hampden County Tobacco Free Partnership (TFCP).

“We all know that smoking is harmful to one’s lungs,” said TFCP Director Sara Moriarty. “As our lives are disrupted by the Coronavirus, this fact raises concerns about the damaging impact the illness may have on those who smoke or vape.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have previously warned about a life-threatening vaping illness called “E-cigarette or Vaping-Associated Lung Injury” (EVALI). In fact, some states, including Massachusetts, are even issuing specific health advisories on vaping and COVID-19. Cases of EVALI provide very real evidence that vaping can cause direct lung damage, and may put e-cigarette users into a “higher-risk category,” according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her advisory also mentions that the hand-to-mouth contact when using vaping devices could help spread Coronavirus.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “Because it attacks the lungs, the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.”

Moriarty points out that while the long-term impact of vaping is not clear, there is evidence coming out that vaping, like smoking, harms the ability of the lungs to fight infection. “Despite the stressful times we’re living in, people who smoke or vape may want to quit to improve their ability to fight the Coronavirus,” she said. “The stress may have led others to relapse and start smoking or vaping again. It’s never too late to try to quit.”

People who smoke and vape know how hard it is to quit because nicotine, the drug in tobacco and vaping products, is highly addictive,” adds Moriarty. “Repeated tobacco and nicotine use is an addiction and quitting can takes several tries before one can quit for good.  Many tobacco users say quitting is the hardest thing they’ve ever done. However, with planning, support, and dedication, many people quit for good.”

Now may be a good time for those who smoke or vape to call the Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free coaching and support 24 hours each day, seven days a week. Enroll online, access quit planning tools, peer support and motivational text messages at KeepTryingMA.org.

Up to eight weeks of FREE nicotine replacement help from patches, gum or lozenges are available through the Helpline (with medical eligibility). With coaching and quit medication people can be twice as likely to quit for good compared to those who try to quit on their own.

Quitting improves one’s health right away: lungs start to heal, the body starts to repair its ability to fight infection, and evidence suggests stopping smoking during this Coronavirus pandemic might just save your life.

For more information, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit KeepTryingMA.org.

By |April 29th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Vaping Can Increase the Risk of Developing Coronavirus—and Make the Infection Worse for Those Who Contract It

Minorities are Particularly Vulnerable to Not Only Coronavirus, But Also the Mental Health Problems the Crisis Brings with It

Black and Hispanic populations across the country—including Massachusetts—are disproportionately contracting COVID-19 and dying from it. This fact is drawing attention to the racial and socioeconomic disparities in health and health care in America.

But at the same time minorities are also getting hit with another long-established racial inequity: mental health treatment. Gándara Center, which specializes in minority mental health, is seeing a boom in the number of people it serves.

Indeed, COVID-19 presents a double jeopardy to minority communities as the pandemic takes not only a physical toll on them but also a psychological one. Almost half of Americans feel the Coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s a particular danger during social distancing mandates, when isolation and anxiety are exacerbating people’s mental health problems.

“This crisis is making life much more difficult for those we serve, including those in recovery and people who have yet to be treated for such problems as anxiety and depression,” said Gándara Center Outpatient Services Director Dr. Madeline Aviles-Hernandez. “Minorities have been—and continue to be—less likely to receive mental health treatment.”

That problem in particular was the impetus for the founding of the Gándara Center in 1977, when no other agency in the area specifically met the needs of providing culturally sensitive care to the Hispanic community. Today, the Gándara Center specializes in Hispanic services, but also delivers services to African-Americans and other diverse populations. The agency recently added Telehealth to its services and its peer recovery support centers are using virtual recovery coaches and virtual recovery events and meetings.

“Right now, thanks to Gov. Charlie Baker’s orders expanding access to Telehealth, people in our communities have more access to our Telehealth phone and video services,” said Dr. Aviles-Hernandez. “The people we serve are finding Telehealth care extremely helpful as the pandemic causes society’s most vulnerable populations unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. These virtual services will help to avoid hospitalizations and emergency room visits at a time when the health care system is strained because of COVID-19.”

Nationally, suicide hotlines are getting more calls daily, and experts say the trauma of the pandemic could cause a spike in substance use—something that happened in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Alcoholic beverage sales have shot up across the country in the past month.

Meanwhile, Gándara Center’s mission to champion the underserved is more important now than ever. “The Coronavirus crisis is highlighting the fact that communities of color have less access to mental health care and substance use disorder treatment, and we’re still working hard to change that,” said Dr. Aviles-Hernandez. “Our Telehealth services are certainly helping.”

By |April 29th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Minorities are Particularly Vulnerable to Not Only Coronavirus, But Also the Mental Health Problems the Crisis Brings with It

Gándara in the Media: Coronavirus Imapct

Several Gándara Center subject experts have been featured in the media in the past few weeks as the world—and our community—adjusts to the impact of the Coronavirus.

On Friday, March 20, our CEO Lois Nesci discussed on WWLP-22 News how best talk to children about COVID-19, a topic that’s bound to come up at the dinner table. WATCH FULL STORY

Lois was also interviewed on the same subject on Western Mass News on Tuesday, March 24. She emphasized being honest with children about the virus without scaring them. This includes parents monitoring what their kids watch on television and see on social media. WATCH FULL STORY

On Friday, March 20, Dr. Rahiza Gallardo-Vazquez (pictured above), a clinical therapist at the Gándara Center, spoke about concerns related to COVID-19 and mental health with the Latin Media Collective, which is based in Holyoke. WATCH FULL CONVERSATION

On Friday, March 27, Western Mass News interviewed Gándara clinician Ruth Trujillo-Acosta, who discussed ways to keep children we serve safe while at home with schools being closed until at least May 4. WATCH FULL STORY

Western Mass News also interviewed Gándara Recovery Coach Supervisor Heriberto Rodriguez (pictured above) on Sunday, March 29, about recovery coaches turning to one-on-one virtual meetings with recoverees to keep their connection. WATCH FULL STORY

On Thursday, April 2, in The Republican’s weekly Spanish-language sister newspaper El Pueblo Latino, clinical therapist Rahiza Gallardo-Vásquez authored a column of practical tips about considerations for our grandparents when they are caregivers to children—or if they can’t spend time with their grandkids because of necessary social distancing—during the COVID-19 outbreak. READ THE COLUMN

Read more discussions from Gándara Center experts in the media regarding Coronavirus.

By |April 7th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Gándara in the Media: Coronavirus Imapct