Methods: Four papers are presented addressing different aspects of the epidemiology of substance use during the pandemic in three different samples: Two papers (Davis et al., and Xin et al.) employ a sample of 150 college students previously diagnosed with Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) who were surveyed late in 2020. Davis examined retrospective reports of changes in Marijuana use during the pandemic. Xin et al. examined the impact of the pandemic on marijuana consequences and self-efficacy for reducing substance use. Hai et al. employed a representative national of over 1800 adults who were Asian and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), Black African Americans (BAA), or Latinx Americans (LA) and who were surveyed longitudinally during the pandemic to look at the impact of discrimination (including COVID-specific discrimination) on alcohol use during the pandemic. Fendrich et al. report on data from a survey of over 1500 adults enrolled via the Mechanical Turk platform during April, 2020 to look at the impact of COVID-related stressors on alcohol and other drug misuse.
Results: Davis et al. found respondents with CUD retrospectively reported significant increases in marijuana use during the early phases of the pandemic. Xin et al. that college students with CUD experienced more difficulty stopping/reducing their marijuana use and drinking during the pandemic (reduced self-efficacy) and that they experienced more adverse substance use consequences. Hai et al. found important differences between AAPI and BAA/LA particularly with respect to the impact of discrimination on their drinking during the early phases of the pandemic. General discrimination directly led to escalated drinking in BAA/LA early in the pandemic; for AAPI, resilience had a strong protective effect on drinking. Fendrich et al., found that COVID-related stress was associated with elevated binge drinking, more frequent marijuana use, and elevated polysubstance use.
Conclusions/Implications: Findings underscore the adverse impact of the pandemic on substance use in diverse populations across the US. Increases in both alcohol and other substance misuse (including marijuana and polysubstance misuse) were identified. Those with preexisting diagnoses, minorities facing discrimination and those exposed to high levels of COVID-related stress were most at-risk. These findings underscore the growing need for intervention and prevention efforts focused on the micro, macro, and meso levels. Expanded treatment services will be needed to address substance dependence and misuse. Also needed are: enhanced community and societal resources to alleviate stress, eliminate discrimination, and boost resilience in minority and vulnerable populations.