We launched a multinational study to examine changes in substance use during the early phase of the pandemic and to identify factors related to these changes, with a specific focus on the effect of polysubstance use in increasing nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis use. This study was conducted using an online survey in English and seven other languages. The survey included measures focusing on substance use, psychological symptoms, stress, and other health and psychosocial measures. A total sample of 2907 participants was included. The results showed that higher levels of perceived social isolation, depression, and anxiety during the pandemic were associated with increases in nicotine use. Increased alcohol use was associated with feelings of uncertainty and increased depression and anxiety symptoms. Polysubstance use was associated with increases in use of cannabis and alcohol during the pandemic; co-use of cannabis and alcohol increased chances for escalating alcohol use; and increases in cannabis use were influenced by the number rather than the types of substances being used. These results demonstrate a link between COVID-19 related psychological distress and increased substance use during the first wave of the pandemic. They also point-out the contribution of pre-COVID polysubstance use in increases in substance use during COVID-19.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Part of Dr. al’Absi time was supported by grants from the National Institute of Health (R01DA016351 and R01DA027232). The first author acknowledges the Health and Behavior International Collaborative Research Award and the sponsoring organization (American Psychosomatic Society) for their support. We would like to acknowledge the help of the Stress & Resilience in the Face of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey team members and collaborators (Hailey Glewwe, Ksenia F. Li, Huma Mamtiminm, Katania Myrie, Jake Robinson, Motohiro Nakajima, Emna Bouguira, and Emanuele Capuozzo).
© 2022 The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.
- depressive and anxiety symptoms
- polysubstance use
- psychosocial stress
- substance use