The COVID-19 pandemic may be reducing risk factors for youth substance use, according to Linda Richter, Ph.D., Vice President of Prevention Research and Analysis at Partnership to End Addiction.
She noted that teens are spending more time at home with family and away from their peers. Time spent with peers who engage in unhealthy behaviors is one of the strongest risk factors for substance use, Richter wrote in a commentary in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Remote learning may reduce stress and anxiety for some teens who feel academic and social pressure at school, she said. It also has alleviated sleep deprivation caused by early school start times, another risk factor for substance use.
Stay-at-home orders have made it difficult for teens to go shopping or receive illicit online orders in the mail without their parents’ knowledge, Richter said. This reduces their ability to have easy access to nicotine, alcohol, and drugs.
It is likely that for some younger teens, social distancing has delayed their initiation of substance use, Richter said. “Such delays would be expected to reduce the odds of future addiction among these youth,” she wrote. She called for research into the effect of the pandemic on youth substance use risk, and how any potential benefits might be extended once normal life resumes.
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In this uncertain time, we know that you may be concerned about keeping your families and your communities safe and healthy. We are dedicated to ensuring you have the support you need to address substance use and addiction – from prevention to recovery.