Research & Resources

Abstinence and Substance Use Among Racial/Ethnic Minority Young Adults During the COVID-19 Global Pandemic

In this study, researchers hypothesized that poor mental health, negative coping behaviors, negative environmental aspects, and belonging to more vulnerable social groups would be associated with increased substance use during the pandemic. They applied multiple regression to longitudinal data from a college sample assessed prior to the pandemic (fall 2017–spring 2019) and during the pandemic (spring 2020) to identify factors predicting current alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine use frequency (as of spring 2020) and change in frequency of use between springs 2019–2020. While infrequent substance use (monthly or less) decreased during the pandemic, abstinence rates increased (i.e., a 39 percent increase in alcohol abstinence, 18 percent increase in cannabis abstinence, and 18 percent increase in nicotine abstinence), and higher-frequency alcohol use increased compared to spring 2019. The strongest protective factor was a change in living situation during the pandemic, associated with lower current alcohol and cannabis use. Risk factors included a history of trouble with police and impulsivity since the pandemic, both associated with higher current and increased alcohol and cannabis use. A higher percentage of Asian-Americans than other racial/ethnic minorities (REM) reported living situation changes. Overall, substance use rates diverged during the pandemic, which saw increases in both abstinence as well as higher-frequency use. These divergent rates are attributed mostly to mental health and environmental domain factors, with few REM differences.
This paper, “Divergent changes: Abstinence and higher-frequency substance use increase among racial/ethnic minority young adults during the COVID-19 global pandemic,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published in The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse.

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