Research & Resources

Early Adolescent Substance Use Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this study, researchers sought to evaluate changes in early adolescent substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic. They conducted three surveys in the six months following the initiation of stay-at-home orders—in May, June, and August 2020—with more than 7,800 participants ages 10 to 14 and their families participating in at least one survey. The overall rate of drug use among young adolescents remained relatively stable before and during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, researchers detected shifts in the drugs used, with alcohol use declining and use of nicotine products and misuse of prescription medications increasing. Adolescents who experienced pandemic-related severe stress, depression, or anxiety—or whose families experienced material hardship during the pandemic—were most likely to use substances.
This paper, “Early adolescent substance use before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal survey in the ABCD Study cohort,” was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. 

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