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Impacts of the COVID-19 public health restrictions on substance use, mental health, and psychosocial functioning among individuals with alcohol use disorder

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journal contribution
posted on 23.11.2022, 20:00 authored by Alba González-Roz, Amanda K. Haik, Liah Rahman, Akshiti A. Todi, Claire Kane, Alyna Walji, Sarah R. Dickerman, Molly Scarfe, Emily E. Levitt, Kyla Belisario, John F. Kelly, James MacKillop

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with major psychosocial disruptions and there is particular concern for individuals with substance use disorders.

Objectives: This study characterized the psychosocial and experiential impacts of the pandemic on individuals seeking alcohol use disorder (AUD) recovery, including pandemic impacts on self-reported drinking, heavy drinking, tobacco, cannabis, and stimulant use.

Methods: Participants were 125 AUD+ individuals (% males: 57.60; Mage = 49.11, SD = 12.13) reporting on substance use from January 1st–24th March, 2020 (pre-pandemic) and since the stay-at-home orders commenced, 24th March–June 28th 2020 (intra-pandemic). Within-subjects changes were examined and a latent profile analysis was performed to identify subgroups differentially impacted by the pandemic.

Results: Large proportions reported psychosocial impacts of COVID-19, but drinking and other substance use did not reveal significant changes. Latent profile analyses revealed two subgroups: Profile 1 (n = 41/125), “Moderately Impacted”) and Profile 2 (n = 84/125), “Severely Impacted”). Compared to the pre-pandemic period, the group that was moderately impacted by the pandemic exhibited significantly fewer heavy drinking days (p = .02) during the intra-pandemic period, but no other substance use changes. The group showing severe pandemic impacts did not exhibit changes in alcohol or other drug use but evidenced more severe anxiety and depression (ps < .001).

Conclusions: We found heterogeneous subtypes of pandemic-related impacts in AUD recovery patients. There is need to provide psychosocial support to this particular population and further monitoring substance use and mental health.


This research was supported by a National Institute of Health [grant ref: R01 AA025849; PIs: James MacKillop & J.F. Kelly]. This institution had no role in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.