MADD understands that COVID-19 has been stressful for all age groups, and teens are not immune. Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause increased use of alcohol and other substances.1 Recent research shows that since COVID-19 related social distancing began, the number of teens who drink alcohol and use marijuana has decreased, but the frequency of use increased.2 In other words, fewer teens drank alcohol and used marijuana, but those who did, abused the substances more often. Depression and fear of COVID-19 infection were among the predictors of teens using substances in isolation during the pandemic.
Alcohol and marijuana use are not healthy coping mechanisms for teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking alcohol weakens your body’s ability to fight infections, increasing the risk of complications, and making it harder to get better if you are sick. Alcohol use can increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia, which are sometimes associated with COVID-19. Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke marijuana.3 Further, alcohol and marijuana use by teens is illegal and never safe for consumption due to teens’ developing brains, risks of injuries and death, as well as the higher likelihood of alcohol dependence in adulthood as a result.
For October’s National Drug Abuse Prevention Month, MADD is focusing on encouraging teens to develop positive coping strategies to combat stress and to look out for their friends by paying attention to warning signs of alcohol and marijuana use. Please share these tips with a teen you know and TALK NOW about the dangers of underage alcohol and drug use.
1 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/stress-coping/alcohol-use.html; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
2 Dumas, T. M., Ellis, W., & Litt, D. M. (2020). What Does Adolescent Substance Use Look Like During the COVID-19 Pandemic? Examining Changes in Frequency, Social Contexts, and Pandemic-Related Predictors. The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 67(3), 354–361. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.06.018
3 NIDA. 2020, April 6. COVID-19: Potential Implications for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.