The outbreak of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) has led to measures of social distancing and quarantine worldwide. This stressful period may lead to psychological problems, including increases in substance use.
To investigate changes in alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption before and during COVID-19 lockdown and motives for these changes in substance use.
A web-based survey was filled out by an unselected population during the social distancing measures of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium that assessed changes in alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption in the period before and during the COVID-19 lockdown and also asked about reasons for change.
A total of 3,632 respondents (mean age 42.1 ± 14.6 years; 70% female) filled out the survey. Overall, respondents reported consuming more alcohol (d = 0.21) and smoking more cigarettes (d = 0.13) than before the COVID-19 pandemic (both p < 0.001), while no significant changes in the consumption of cannabis were noted. The odds of consuming more alcohol during the lockdown were associated with younger age (OR = 0.981, p < 0.001), more children at home (OR = 1.220, p < 0.001), non-healthcare workers (p < 0.001), and being technically unemployed related to COVID-19 (p = 0.037). The odds of smoking more cigarettes during the lockdown were associated with younger age (OR = 0.988, p = 0.027), current living situation (p < 0.001), lower education (p = 0.015), and working situation related to COVID-19 (p = 0.018). Boredom, lack of social contacts, loss of daily structure, reward after a hard-working day, loneliness, and conviviality were the main reasons for consuming more of the various substances.
During the lockdown, individuals consumed slightly more alcohol and smoked marginally more cigarettes compared to the period before the lockdown. Further research focussing on follow-up of individuals at risk may be useful to provide appropriate care in post-COVID times.

© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.