Associations Between Substance Use Problems and Stress During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced major life disruptions and increased stress. The researchers explored associations between pandemic-related stress and substance use problems.
Adults (N = 180; 65% female) with substance use problems were recruited online between June and 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.
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).
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.