A pandemic during the pandemic? Impact of Covid-19 on cannabis use, patterns and settings for drugs use support

Elena Deligianni, Lisa Lione, Ivan Ezquerra-Romano, David de Segovia Vicente

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected people’s lives globally. Lockdown measures and social distancing have a negative impact on people’s mental health state. To help cope with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, some people use psychoactive substances. Here we investigate whether the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have altered drug use, and specifically, cannabis use. Additionally, we examined how drug users perceived drug support system during the pandemic and their drug use preferences/motivations.

The survey was conducted by Drugs and Me (https://www.drugsand.me/en/) using the SurveyMonkey platform. It was in English and advertised on social media during April 2020 at the time when most countries around the world implemented social restrictions. This pharmacoepidemiologic study was evaluated using SPSS software (IBM SPSS Statistics version 27; MacOS Sierra 10.12.3). Chi‐square test was used to assess categorical changes. The significance level was set to *p<0.05 after a Bonferroni correction.

1615 out of 2450 respondents reported psychoactive substance use. 1315 (81.4% of those reported psychoactive substance use) claimed to have used cannabis since the pandemic had started. Region of residency and age significantly predicted cannabis use (p<0.05). Most of the cannabis users reported daily use, an increase of cannabis use during the outbreak and their intention to not stop cannabis use. Those that reported greater alcohol consumption during the pandemic also increased their cannabis use (p<0.001) and tended to combine cannabis with alcohol (p<0.001). Nicotine users in majority were habitual daily cannabis users (p<0.001). Increased nicotine smoking correlated with an increase of cannabis use during the outbreak (p<0.001) and a more habitual cannabis use (p=0.006).
The Covid-19 outbreak associated social isolation measures have raised concerns regarding substance use. Due to a decline in people’s mental health as a result of social isolation, lack of services for drug use support, and limited drug education, both public and scientific spheres should be concerned about significant changes in substance use. This study shows that variables such as age and polydrug use are relevant to identify those at risk of increasing their substance use and should guide harm reduction efforts. There is a need for organised strategies aiming for better drugs education and support through public health sectors, universities, government including an update of drugs policies signposting to drug education and harm reduction support.


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