From 22 March until 18 May 2020, a complete lockdown in Italy was ordered as a countermeasure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Social isolation measures affect some populations more than others, and people with drug and/or alcohol disorders (SUDs) are more likely to be adversely affected. This study presents, for the first time, laboratory data on the use of alcohol and drugs in a high-risk population during Italy’s first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty subjects with SUDs were monitored for the use of illicit drugs and alcohol every 3 months before, during and after the lockdown, by hair analysis. The number of samples positive for heroin, cocaine, MDMA and cannabis fell considerably during the lockdown and then resumed to pre-lockdown levels when the period of confinement was over. Interestingly, the consumption of benzodiazepines and alcohol followed the opposite trend; both the number of benzodiazepine-positive samples and the level of alcohol consumption increased and remained high, even at the end of the lockdown. The confinement measures produced significant changes in drug/alcohol use patterns, with a shift toward the use of substances that were more easily accessible, used as self-medication for negative feelings, and used to alleviate the effects of abstinence from drugs that were no longer readily available.

Changes in Drug Use Patterns during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Italy: Monitoring a Vulnerable Group by Hair Analysis

Gili, Alessio
Formal Analysis
;
Bacci, Mauro
Investigation
;
Aroni, Kyriaki
Investigation
;
Nicoletti, Alessia
Investigation
;
Gambelunghe, Angela
Investigation
;
Mercurio, Isabella
Investigation
;
Gambelunghe, Cristiana
Writing – Review & Editing
2021

Abstract

From 22 March until 18 May 2020, a complete lockdown in Italy was ordered as a countermeasure against the COVID-19 pandemic. Social isolation measures affect some populations more than others, and people with drug and/or alcohol disorders (SUDs) are more likely to be adversely affected. This study presents, for the first time, laboratory data on the use of alcohol and drugs in a high-risk population during Italy’s first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty subjects with SUDs were monitored for the use of illicit drugs and alcohol every 3 months before, during and after the lockdown, by hair analysis. The number of samples positive for heroin, cocaine, MDMA and cannabis fell considerably during the lockdown and then resumed to pre-lockdown levels when the period of confinement was over. Interestingly, the consumption of benzodiazepines and alcohol followed the opposite trend; both the number of benzodiazepine-positive samples and the level of alcohol consumption increased and remained high, even at the end of the lockdown. The confinement measures produced significant changes in drug/alcohol use patterns, with a shift toward the use of substances that were more easily accessible, used as self-medication for negative feelings, and used to alleviate the effects of abstinence from drugs that were no longer readily available.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11391/1485953
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