By Dr Will Lawn and Martine Skumlien / Society for the Study of Addiction

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have substantially affected our use of legal and illegal drugs. In the UK, we have adapted to the closure of pubs and restaurants by purchasing considerably more alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences, while hundreds of thousands of people have given up smoking cigarettes. In jurisdictions where recreational cannabis is legal, increased sales have been reported. Those with addictive disorders are thought to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and harm reduction advice tailored to drug users has been disseminated.

Although we are able to partially gauge fluctuations in legal drug use and effects on treatment services, it is more difficult to assess how illegal drug use patterns have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown measures. Some nascent, albeit potentially unreliable, information has recently become available. However, there are a large number of ongoing surveys from around the globe which, in time, will reveal some of the COVID-19 related consequences on illegal drug use and markets. This brief article aims to introduce and collate them.