Drug use by youth has neither increased nor decreased during the pandemic – Knopf – 2021 – The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter

Alcohol use has declined and nicotine use and prescription misuse have increased among 10-14 year olds during the pandemic, according to a study released last week. Overall, the rate of drug use among these young people has remained stable during the pandemic based on repeated surveys of more than 7,800 people aged 10 to 14 conducted between September 2019 and August 2020.

Young people most likely to use substances were those who experienced severe stress, depression or anxiety related to the pandemic, or whose families experienced material hardship during the pandemic, according to the study. Journal of Adolescent Health. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and nine other institutes, centers and offices that are part of the National Institutes of Health, using data from the ongoing study on cognitive brain development of adolescents (ABCD).

“The past year has been difficult and the teens have been through a year of turmoil and stress in [the] precarious space between childhood and adulthood. Recognizing how the stress of the past year translates into substance use has profound implications in adulthood, as alcohol and drug use at these ages is associated with a significantly higher risk of substance use disorders. long-term alcohol and drug use and associated harms, ”said the director of NIDA. Nora D. Volkow, MD, in announcing the study Aug. 24. “Because the ABCD study had previously followed this young and diverse population, researchers were able to make direct comparisons between trends in substance use before and during the pandemic, highlighting the value of investing in research projects. long-term collaborative.

It was previously found that substance use among older adolescents also remained stable, if not decreased, during the pandemic. However, no data existed on the effect of the pandemic on younger adolescents.

To fill this gap, the research team conducted three surveys in the 6 months following the launch of the stay-at-home orders – in May, June and August 2020 – among more than 7,800 elderly ABCD study participants. aged 10 to 14 and their families participating in at least one survey. They assessed the use of alcohol, nicotine products, cannabis and other drugs among adolescents; prescription drug abuse; and many general and pandemic factors that could influence substance use.

The study found that overall substance use in this age group remained relatively stable across all three surveys and occurred infrequently. In the three surveys:
  • 8% of adolescents said they had used a substance in the past 30 days.
  • Alcohol and nicotine use were the most common (3.4% and 3.6% of adolescents, respectively).
  • Rates of prescription drug abuse and the use of cannabis, inhalants or other drugs were low (1.1% of adolescents or less).
  • Most young people reported using a single substance and only 1 to 2 days per month.

The researchers also found that stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms in young people were all positively associated with substance use and that several factors linked to the pandemic increased the likelihood of substance use in adolescents. For example, youth who reported “extreme” stress due to the uncertainty associated with the pandemic were 2.4 times more likely to use a substance than youth who reported “very mild” stress.

“These data suggest that substance use during the pandemic was concentrated among young people from the most vulnerable families, underscoring the need to provide support to these young people and their families,” said William E. Pelham, Ph.D. , University of California. , San Diego, who led the study. “But we also need to look to the future, beyond the 2020 data, to understand how alcohol and drug use will continue to evolve as people return to school and work. By continuing to follow these young people for five or six more years through the ABCD study, we can help determine the full impact of the pandemic on American youth and take care of their health and well-being. “

The authors note that the study does not directly test or explain why the changes in drug use occurred, and further analysis is needed to determine the mechanisms underlying these trends.

Pelham WE, Tapert SF, Gonzalez MR, et al. Substance use among young adolescents before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a longitudinal survey in the ABCD study cohort. J Adolesc Health 2021 Sep; 69 (3): 390-397. doi: 10.1016 / j.jadohealth.2021.06.015.

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