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A multinational study of psychosocial stressors and symptoms associate-d with increased substance use during the early wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Publication year 2022
Published in Cogent Psychology
Authors Bingshuo Li, Arwa Ben Salah, Briana N. DeAngelis, Daniela Morales, Stephan Bongard, Luke Leufen, Ryan Johnson, Marina Olmos, Shah Alam, Svetlana Kuzmina, Susan Levenstein, Solomon Renati, Mustafa al'Absi,

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.

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