Online ISSN: 2515-8260

Effect of Lockdown on Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Substance Use Among College Students

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Rupinder Gill1*, R T Kannapiran2 , Mukhil Sakthi3


With the emergence of second wave of Covid 19, the number of COVID positive cases started to rise drastically. Government imposed the second lockdown from 11th May, 2021 in Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry. In an attempt to control the spread of infection, there was restricted movement throughout the country and most of the businesses were shut down. Only the essential services staffs were allowed to leave home and the rest were allowed only to access health care or buy essential items. Alcohol and tobacco products were not in the list of essentials during the lockdown. This meant non-availability of these substances through authorized vendors. An unintended consequence of this dry period could be an increase in the incidence of severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome. According to the nation-wide survey published in 2019, an estimated 160 million (14.6%) people in India consume alcohol and 29 million (2.7%) were dependent on it.1Among the SEAR countries, India had the highest yearly per capita alcohol consumption of 5.7 liters.2 In the last 2 decades, the proportion of young drinkers goes from 2% to 14%, and the age of initiation declined from 19 years to 13 years.3 All these factors together have made alcohol consumption a serious public health threat. The threat is multiplied by multinational corporations targeting India’s emerging market of young drinkers.4 These corporations have fueled a steady change in the level of acceptance and attitude towards alcohol from a culture of abstinence to ambivalence to covertly permissive.3,5 One of the features of addictions is a self-perpetuating cycle of substance use leading to social isolation which in-turn leads to more substance use. The lockdown and physical distancing due to COVID-19 is going to exacerbate the isolation and increase the risk of alcohol consumption and also lead to relapses in those who have recovered. This isolation also had an impact on nicotine dependents. In many countries, there was an increased consumption of tobacco to relieve stress and negative emotion. Smokers’ daily smoking rates increased above 50% during the first lockdown in western countries. It has been shown that smoking increases in the phase of various environmental stressors. However, this period of self-isolation could be used by some as an opportunity to quit smoking, but realistically, only a minority of people will achieve cessation. For the majority, the increased stress of a potentially fatal disease, possibility of loss of employment, feelings of insecurity, confinement and boredom could increase the desire to smoke. This situation could have precipitated a similar condition for the consumption of other substances as well. But there were hardly any reports regarding the addiction behavior of Indian students. Hence, in this study, we appraised the changes in alcohol, tobacco and other substances during the second nation-wide lockdown in India.

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