Social Distancing Measures Not Slowing Down Drug Use

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread social distancing measures to suppress the transmission of this virus. Social distancing has had a significant impact on nightlife, with many authorities temporarily banning parties in such settings. This has caused the temporary closure of clubs and the cancellation of dance festivals.

However, some forms of nightlife have moved to online platforms. Virtual reality and virtual happy hours have become a popular way for people to interact and experience live DJ performances while practicing social distancing. Virtual happy hours, in particular, are becoming more prevalent, although this phrase appears to apply to several kinds of social gatherings whether or not alcohol consumption is involved. Such virtual events can easily be hosted or hosted by free popular online video-conferencing platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts.

While virtual meetings are popular for social and work gatherings for a while, virtual reality, sometimes known as cloud computing, appears to be a more recent phenom. Virtual raves are DJ events typically live broadcasting to tens of thousands or even millions of individuals worldwide through Twitch or other programs.

While some virtual raves are small, others are hosted by important festival promoters. By way of instance, in May, Electric Daisy Circus, the biggest electronic dance music (EDM) dance carnival in the United States, held a digital rave-a-thon highlighting several leading global EDM DJs.

Minecraft was planning to host the biggest virtual rave to date, called Rave Family Block Fest, scheduled to feature over 950 artists, 65 virtual platforms, and countless millions of individuals are expected to see. Given the increasing popularity of these digital events, it’s essential to ascertain whether attendance is related to health-related behaviors like drug use.

Individuals who attend non-virtual EDM functions at nightclubs or dance galas are at significant risk for party drugs like ecstasy (MDMA, Molly), LSD, amphetamine, and cocaine. EDM parties are often considered insecure environments due to the high incidence of drug use. Environmental factors such as overcrowding, heat, lack of drinking water, or lack of places to cool or cool off may increase the risk of experiencing adverse drug-related consequences. However, use in more laid-back contexts can decrease the risk of adverse effects, primarily defined by such environments.

While decades of research have concentrated on drug-related risk behavior within the EDM scene, the study is required to ascertain the degree to which virtual events are related to drug use. We should examine the level of drug use during happy hours and virtual raves among drug-using EDM partygoers to inform prevention and injury reduction efforts.

Joseph Palamar and Patricia Acosta have performed one recent research to analyze drug use during virtual raves and happy hours. Among this medication sample using EDM partygoers at New York, 55.5 percent have attended virtual reality, and 69.5 percent have attended virtual happy hours during COVID-19-related social distancing.

Alcohol was the most common substance used during both types of events, followed by cannabis, which was utilized by 29–30 percent of participants attending either occasion. The use of illegal drugs other than cannabis was less widespread, with 18.3 percent of virtual rave attendees reporting utilization and 7.9 percent of virtual happy hour participants reporting use.

Drugs used included cocaine, ketamine, ecstasy/Molly/MDMA, LSD, And a couple of cases of the use of mushrooms and DMT, one of those reporting virtual rave attendance. Cannabis, Molly/ecstasy/MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, and LSD are the most prevalent party drugs used by this person in general. It appears that these are among the drugs of choice across party or social preferences.

While it is untold to what degree these participants used various drugs in everyday life, results imply that a subset of EDM partygoers practices drugs during virtual events. They discovered that the use of drugs within the last year was associated with a higher risk of medication use during this event. Therefore, people who have more recent experience using various medications are more likely to use them during those events.

However, research on behavioral aspects of accompanying virtual events is in its infancy. More study on virtual happy hours is explicitly required, in part, because these events are broadly defined and may vary considerably. More research on virtual raves and happy hours is needed, particularly about contexts of drug use behavior.

For example, it is untold if participants attended alone or if they were with others. These factors can have implications for harm reduction as using specific medications by oneself can be dangerous in certain conditions. More study is also required within general population samples. This study focused on a high-resolution sample of those who have recently used drugs. They suspect that illegal drug use wouldn’t be as common in the general population samples.

Drug use during virtual raves and happy hours appears to be somewhat prevalent among drug-using EDM partygoers. While prevention and injury reduction typically concentrate on drug use at EDM parties, more study is required to determine the contexts in which drug use occurs during virtual events. Although use may be”safer” in a house environment, such usage may introduce unique risks; for instance, risks associated with using alone. Policy and public health specialists must know that drug use occurs during virtual occasions because this may allow people to reach people with prevention or harm reduction information.

So, How Is Covid-19 Changing Drug Use Outside the Rave Scene?

The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to have considerably affected our usage of illegal and legal medications. In the United Kingdom, we’ve adapted to bars and restaurants close by buying much more alcohol in supermarket stores and off-license. In contrast, lacs of individuals have stopped smoking cigarettes. In authorities where recreational cannabis is legal, increased earnings are reported. People who have addictive disorders are regarded as especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and harm reduction information tailored to drug users has been disseminated.

Although we can partially calculate fluctuations in legal drug use and effects on therapy services, it is more challenging to evaluate how illegal drug use patterns have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdown measures. Some nascent, albeit possibly unreliable, information has just become available.

However, there are a lot of ongoing surveys from around the globe, which, with time, will show some of those COVID-19 related consequences on prohibited drug use and markets.

Anecdotal Reports

There are anecdotal reports from the UK the wholesale prices of Heroin and cocaine have increased considerably since lockdown, that some heroin is low carb’, which fentanyl is more available. While in France, the purchase price of cannabis resin surged after the lockdown.

Dr. Karenza Moore, who investigates club drug use in the North of England, has seen online forum reports of a ketamine drought and a greatly diminished demand for MDMA. She noticed a marked drop in activity in online drug-focused party discussion groups during late March and April. However, individuals appear to be readying themselves for upcoming domestic parties, given the whole summer of festivals and clubbing was wiped out.

Existing Survey Results

A survey by Crew, a Scottish drug treatment and education charity, found that 58 percent of the 300 respondents reported taking medication more frequently. While 19% reported taking medication less frequently than before the pandemic. Reasons stated for increased usage were boredom, more time, anxiety, and isolation, amongst others. This was somewhat echoed in results from a survey run by the New Zealand Drug Foundation that found that increases in medication use were commonly attributed to boredom and anxiety [xi].

Ivan Ezquerra-Romana, of harm-reduction organization Drugs and Me, Recently surveyed with approximately 2,000 respondents, also found that the use of benzodiazepines and cannabis has increased. In contrast, the use of ketamine, MDMA, and cocaine have remained stable or slightly decreased.

In Hungary, most respondents from a poll completed by a drug reporter stated that most illegal drugs’ purchase price has remained steady. However, 40-60 percent of respondents reported that MDMA, cannabis, and amphetamine have become less accessible.

Relatedly, lockdown steps appear to have resulted in a change Towards online drug buying. From the Crew study, 18 percent of respondents reported using online methods more frequently than before to get drugs. Furthermore, according to a new EMCDDA report, there was a general increase in activity on three popular market drug markets since the start of 2020, mainly linked to cannabis products. There was, however, a decrease in demand for party drugs widely used at social gatherings.

Ongoing Studies

Several larger-scale surveys are currently being conducted and assure more detailed, reliable data in the future. The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is conducting a special COVID-19 variant of the poll. Dr. Adam Winstock, the GDS founder, states, “we would like to explore the intersection between changes in people’s use of alcohol and other drugs, and their mental health and relationships. We would like to know where increases or decreases are practical or maladaptive”.

The present survey boasts 48,000 responses, and data collection is continuing, so this will represent a hugely informative source for establishing how COVID-19 affects illegal drug use.

In Australia, the newly initiated Adapting to Pandemic Threats (ADAPT) research is specially designed to evaluate the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on individuals using illicit drugs. Covering Europe, the EMCDDA runs its COVID-19 drug survey, which is available in 20 different languages.

In Canada, the Canadian Centre On Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) recently surveyed 2,000 respondents to ascertain how alcohol and cannabis use was affected and how this relates to mental health changes, with outcomes not yet been published.

As part of this ALAMA-nightlife project, University College London (UCL) investigators Dr. Jon Waldren and Meryem Grabski are continuing their longitudinal Electronic Music Scene Survey in UK respondents:

“We will discuss participants about their experiences of nightlife and medication use pre and post the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re particularly interested to see whether young adults residing in the UK to change their substance use repertoire during the pandemic, and if that is correlated with variables like availability, cost, quality, a chance to or changes in the desire to use materials.”

Additionally, both The Loop and Release analyze changes in how people source their drugs, the purchase price of drugs, and harm reduction strategies being used by consumers and traders. The Loop recently reported that those who use ketamine are twice as likely to share snorting gear than other drug users throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and have supplied ketamine-specific harm reduction information.

Existing longitudinal studies, which track drug use pre and Post pandemic, will be especially powerful tools in showing the consequences of COVID-19. The UCL CannTeen research, which Dr. Will Lawn works on, has a present sample of adolescent and adult cannabis users who use other medications.

Dr. Lawn records every participant’s drug use every single day for an entire calendar year, so we will have the ability to analyze how use patterns changed after March 2020 while supplementing this with specific questions about underlying motives for change. Also, both Martine Skumlien and Dr. Will Lawn are partners on the C-CABANA survey, which will explore changes in cannabis use patterns resulting from COVID-19 and how this is related to the mental health of the respondents, with a specific focus on apathy and anhedonia in teens.

Several existing, large scale, drug-focused longitudinal researches are also being carried out in the United States, Australia, and Canada, which will have the ability to catch COVID-19 related changes in drug use trajectories, such as the ABCD study, ICPS, EDRS, and IDRS. These studies have gathered several years’ worth of medication use data ahead of the pandemic and will continue to accumulate information in the years to come.

These studies will collectively evaluate the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on illegal substance use patterns across large areas of the Western world. We might observe quick drop-offs in the use of party drugs like MDMA and cocaine and concomitant increases in usage of typically relaxing drugs, such as cannabis and benzodiazepines.

In the long term, transport and production of illegal drugs may well have lasting implications on availability and cost, with unknown consequences On the incidence of use, drug tastes, related harm, and treatment requirement. Continued data collection and rapid dissemination of findings will be crucial in monitoring how COVID-19 affects illegal drug use in the months and the coming years.

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