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This article is the author's final published version in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Volume 19, Issue 15, August 2022.

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Copyright © 2022 by the authors.Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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Since 2020, people who use drugs (PWUD) experienced heightened risks related to drug supply disruptions, contamination, overdose, social isolation, and increased stress. This study explored how the lives of PWUD changed in Philadelphia over a one-year period. Using semi-structured interviews with 20 participants in a Housing First, low-barrier medication for opioid use (MOUD) program in Philadelphia, the effects of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic on the daily lives, resources, functioning, substance use, and treatment of PWUD were explored. Interviews were analyzed using a combination of directed and conventional content analysis. Six overarching themes emerged during data analysis: (1) response to the pandemic; (2) access to MOUD and support services; (3) substance use; (4) impacts on mental health, physical health, and daily functioning; (5) social network impacts; and (6) fulfillment of basic needs. Participants reported disruptions in every domain of life, challenges meeting their basic needs, and elevated risk for adverse events. MOUD service providers offset some risks and provided material supports, treatment, social interaction, and emotional support. These results highlight how there were significant disruptions to the lives of PWUD during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and identified critical areas for future intervention and policies.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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