Associations Between Substance Use Problems and Stress During COVID-19. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs Vogel, E. A., Chieng, A., Robinson, A., Pajarito, S., Prochaska, J. J. 2021; 82 (6): 776-781


OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic has produced major life disruptions and increased stress. We explored associations between pandemic-related stress and substance use problems.METHOD: Adults (N = 180; 65% female) with problematic substance use (CAGE-AID > 1) were recruited online June-August 2020. Measures included the 15-item Short Inventory of Problems-Alcohol and Drugs (SIP-AD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) seven-item anxiety measure, Patient Health Questionnaire-8 (PHQ-8) eight-item depression measure, a three-item measure of pandemic life disruptions, a six-item measure of pandemic-related mental health effects, and a five-item measure of pandemic-related personal growth. Participants reported whether they frequented bars and attended large gatherings. Participants with children (<18 years of age) in the home completed a four-item measure of pandemic-related worry about children's well-being. Pandemic-related measures with significant bivariate associations with SIP-AD, GAD, and PHQ scores were tested in multivariable linear regression, adjusting for sex, age, and race/ethnicity.RESULTS: Participants who struggled with responsibilities at home, had greater mental health impacts, had greater personal growth, and frequented bars or large gatherings had higher SIPAD scores (all ps < .05). Participants who struggled with responsibilities at home, had difficulty getting necessities, had greater mental health impacts, and worried more about their children had higher GAD-7 and PHQ-8 scores (all ps < .05). Participants who lost a job or income during the pandemic had higher PHQ-8 scores (p = .015). In multivariable analyses, greater mental health impacts were associated with higher SIP-AD, PHQ-8, and GAD-7 scores (all ps < .05).CONCLUSIONS: Experiencing worsened mental health symptoms during COVID-19 was associated with more substance use problems and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Pandemic disruptions may exacerbate preexisting substance use problems.

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