People with substance use disorder are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Their vulnerability stems from the many adverse effects that substance use has on the body, including respiratory diseases and weak immunity. In light of this information, people who hitherto use drugs may stop to reduce their vulnerability. On the other hand, COVID-19 has caused stress for many people nationally and globally, and some may seek to relieve anxiety.
We crawled more than 1 million comments and threads (from January 2020 to July 2020) on drug-related subreddits to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted drug use patterns among Americans.
The rise/drop in the number of comments or threads in subreddits indicates how much consumers use the related drug. For example, if the number of comments and threads in Meth-related subreddits drop in February, it might mean that in that month, Meth consumers are less into the substance.
With that in mind, we found out:
Americans Have Turned to Drugs to Cope with COVID-19
Based on how strong the upward trend each drug type experienced during COVID-19 period (from March to July), we have ranked the top 5 most used drugs during the pandemic:
>> In March, there is a sudden, strong rise across all types of drugs
- In February, there was a drop in marijuana comments and threads. In March, however, there was a sudden 6.18% raise and a 2.11% increase in comments.
- In February, there was also a drop in Alcohol threads and then a 9.94% rise in March.
- There was a 8.65% rise of Hallucinogens threads in March.
>> This rising trend continued throughout May, then reduced in June.
- Marijuana: Number of threads dropped 6.71%, comments dropped 5.51%
- Alcohol: Number of threads dropped 10.50%, comments dropped 5.27%
- Hallucinogens: Number of threads dropped 4.61%, comments dropped 6.14%
>> After dropping in June, the rising trend picked up again in July.
- All drugs whose threads and comments were analyzed were on the rise except for MDMA, cocaine, and stimulants.
- Comments for all drugs increased by over 20%, except for stimulants, where they rose by 12.51%.
>> In both March and July, Marijuana experienced the strongest jump in the number of comments and threads.
- Containment measures for Covid-19, such as lockdowns, began in March. Meanwhile, the months of March, April, and May saw a remarkable rise in drug use, which leads to the conclusion that the pandemic has caused Americans to turn to drugs.
- Drug use eased a little in June when the pandemic seemed to relax; however, when the second wave of COVID-19 hit us in July, Americans turned to drugs again.
However, Americans Still Want to Quit Substance Use
We also paid special attention to the subreddits for those who want to quit Kratom, Alcohol, Marijuana, Opiate. Here are the trends:
*Please note that Opiate is an exception, since the biggest subreddit about quitting opiate has lost its moderator, and it has been deactivated.
>> Not surprisingly, March is the month when drug users want to quit drugs the least.
>> But in April and May, people started desiring to give up drugs again.
- For kratom, there was a rise of 24.02% for threads and a 20.46% increase in comments (in April).
- Threads on marijuana rose by 28.22% while comments on the same dropped by 18,22% (in April).
>> Although the rising trend was interrupted in June, it continued in July.
- Alcohol rose by 25.37% comments while Kratom rose by 7.80% comments.
>> In July, the upward trend for Alcohol was much stronger than Marijuana
- In March, the fact that Americans turn to drugs to deal with COVID-19 is amplified by the fact that less people try to quit drugs.
- However, in April and May, it seems that Americans start to realize drugs can not help them cope with the pandemic so that more people try to give up substance use.
- A positive signal happens in July when many more people try to quit drugs (especially when compared to June), despite booming drug use that month.
- Despite the fact that marijuana use is booming, more people want to quit alcohol compared to marijuana.
Fair Use Statement
If you know someone who could benefit from our findings, feel free to share this project with them. The graphics and content are available for noncommercial reuse. All we ask is that you link back to this page so that readers get all the necessary information and we receive proper credit.