A Global Study of the Escalation of Substance Use and Its Association With Mental Health Symptoms During the Early Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstracts are archived here from prior International Forums. Abstracts were reviewed by NIH staff for appropriateness to present at the Forum but are not peer-reviewed.

Arwa Ben Salah

Arwa Ben Salah1, Briana N DeAngelis2, Shah Alam3, Stephan Bongard4, Ryan Johnson2, Svetlana Kuzmina5, Luke Leufen6, Susan Levenstein7, Bingshuo Li8, Daniela Morales2, Marina Olmos9, R. J. Solomon10, Mustafa al'Absi2. 1Community Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine of Monastir, University of Monastir, Tunisia; 2Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health, University of Minnesota Medical School–Duluth, United States; 3Department of Psychology, Aligarh Muslim University, India; 4Department of Psychology, Goethe-University, Germany; 5Department of Psychiatry, Kazan State Medical University, Russia; 6Faculty of Communication and Environment, Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Germany; 7Aventino Medical Group, Italy; 8Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Amsterdam-Zuidoost, The Netherlands; 9Developmental and Educational Psychology, University of Murcia, Spain; 10Department of Psychology, Veer Wajekar Arts, Science & Commerce College, India.

In light of the expected escalation of mental health and substance use disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched a global study to examine changes in substance use and to identify factors related to these changes as the virus spread worldwide. This cross-sectional, descriptive study was conducted using an online survey in English and eight other languages. The survey included measures focusing on substance use, psychological symptoms, stress, and other health and psychosocial measures. A total sample of 5123 participants provided complete or partial responses. The results showed that among those who reported using nicotine, 20% reported significant increases in use during the pandemic, and among those who reported using cannabis, 29% reported significant increases in their cannabis use during the pandemic. Among those who reported using alcohol, 20% reported an increase during the pandemic. Higher levels of depression, stress, social isolation, uncertainty, and poor sleep quality during the pandemic were associated with increases in nicotine use and in alcohol use. Increased cannabis use was associated with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress during the pandemic. Lower levels of resilience and social support during the pandemic were associated with increased alcohol use. These results demonstrate significant burdens associated with the pandemic and point to potential long-term consequences of the pandemic on substance use and mental health problems. Recovery efforts post-pandemic must consider the need to build global efforts to address substance use and related mental health effects of COVID-19.

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North Africa
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