Trends in Substance Use and Abuse During COVID-19 Among the General Population

Document Type : Review Article(s)


Department of Public Health, The National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Baba Gang Nath Marg, New Delhi, 110064, India



Background: COVID-19 pandemic has brought many public health issues, including substance use and abuse. Individuals abusing 
substances are vulnerable to severe infections caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as impairment of the immune system, mental 
health, and physical health. Despite considerable efforts to minimize and prevent substance use, the use of tobacco, alcohol, and 
illicit substances is ever increasing resulting in morbidity and mortality which significantly leads to socio-economic costs. 

Methods: A quantitative review of the literature searched in PubMed and Google Scholar databases yielded a total of 1416 studies 
among which 27 cross-sectional studies, conducted on the general population of 15 and above years of age, were selected based 
on the eligibility criteria. 

Findings: A sample of 1,021,118 individuals were investigated in this study. The most commonly used substances were marijuana 
(100%), methadone (69.86%), and large cigar (60%). A total of 26 substances were reported to have been used during pandemic, 
13 of which showed trends in usage (increased/decreased/no change). Of the total sample, 45.89% were males, 54.14% females, 
and 1.28% others.

Conclusion: Everyone and anyone is susceptible to alcohol, tobacco, and other substance use and abuse at different stages of their 
lives. Therefore, the need for effective preventive strategies is critical in community efforts to combat substance abuse. Combined 
efforts from local and global stakeholders will lead to curbing the issue of substance use and abuse worldwide.