Consumption of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis generally declines during the pandemic

Consumption of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, electronic cigarettes, and cocaine has declined across the board in Spain since the pandemic hit the country.

This is the main conclusion of the results of the Survey of the Spanish Observatory of Drugs and Addictions (OEDA) on covid, which observes and analyzes trends in the consumption of substances psychoactive and behaviors addictive before and during the pandemic. This report responds to the interest of the Ministry of Health to know how it has affected the confinements and the measures to contain the coronavirus in the population, especially in those who have consumed some type of substance throughout their life.

The survey has a representative sample of the Spanish population, with 8,780 responses collected between November and December 2020

The survey, presented this Friday by the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, and the delegate for the National Drug Plan, Joan R. Villabí, has a representative sample of the Spanish population, with 8,780 replies collected between November and December 2020: 7,886 from people between 15 and 64 years old, 894 from 64 or older.

According to the minister, previous surveys such as EDADES reflected the trend drug consumption in the country, but his field work stopped with the arrival of the pandemic. With this report, specific to the pandemic, “we give continuity to the data that allow us to analyze addiction trends and allow planning public health policies.”

For his part, the delegate points out the “feat” of conducting this survey after suspending the EDADES, which was carried out through face-to-face interviews at home. At the same time, it applauds that certain addictive uses that take a lot of effort to counter, such as tobacco or alcohol, have been reduced in this period. However, he believes that it will be necessary to analyze the trends of those substances that depend on the context, such as parties or encounters with the presence of drugs, to know if this reduction is temporary or permanent.

Alcoholic drinks

The alcohol, which is the most consumed addictive substance in Spain, had a significant decrease consumption during the pandemic: while 62% of Spaniards claimed to take it before covid-19, now only does it 57.3%.

The report reflects a large decline in binge drinking: from a prevalence of 17.2% before the pandemic to 9.7% today

This decrease occurs in both genders, from 70.6 to 66.2% in men, and from 53.4 to 48.3% in women. Turn in all age groups, a reduction in consumption is observed, but it is much more pronounced in the population under 25 years of age.

Regarding the change in the observed patterns, the survey reflects that there is a significant percentage of women who have stopped drinking during the pandemic (7.6%) while men have maintained (34.5%) or decreased (26%) consumption. By age, the work detects that people aged 15-34 have had a higher rate of abandonment and reduction of drinking, while those aged 35 to 64 there is a trend similar to before confinement.

About the people who drink alcohol daily, the survey reflects a stable trend before confinement. Men have a higher prevalence of drinking (9.4% compared to 5% in women) and this type of consumption increases with age.

Finally, the OEDA report shows a large decrease in the binge drinking, in both sexes and especially in the population under 25 years of age. Although this type of consumption had a prevalence of 17.2%, the pandemic has lowered it to 9.7%.

Tobacco, cannabis and e-cigarettes

The tobacco, the second most consumed addictive substance in the country, has experienced a decrease in consumption: while 29.1% of those surveyed claimed to smoke before the coronavirus, now 27.7% do. This consumption decreases in all age groups, especially those under 25 years of age, but it is less marked in women than in men.

2.6% of Spaniards have quit smoking during the pandemic, while 1% have started smoking

By trend, the survey shows that the 2.6% of Spaniards have quit tobacco during the pandemic, and only one percent started smoking, without appreciating differences by sex. Regarding age, it is observed that, as the years increase, there are fewer smokers.

The daily consumption Tobacco use has also decreased during confinement: 32.3% of smokers did so daily, while now they account for 23.4%.

Consumption of cannabis, which is the most widely used illegal substance in the country, has decreased during the pandemic: while before it had a prevalence of 7.8%, the coronavirus has lowered it to 6.5%. This decrease is more noticeable in men and in the population under 25 years of age.

Finally, the use of electronic cigarettes it has also decreased in the last year (3.5% before, 2.3% now), in both sexes and in all age groups, especially those under 34 years of age.

Other substances

Consumption of cocaineAccording to the survey, it has decreased significantly during the pandemic: while previously it had a prevalence of 1.4%, now it is 1%. Regarding the use of opioid pain relievers, the work reflects that 1.3% of those surveyed have consumed it without a prescription.

There is only one substance in which there is an increase in its consumption: hypnosedatives without a prescription

The only substance that the report detects that has been consumed more during the pandemic are over-the-counter hypnosedatives: before the covid they had a prevalence of 1.9%, and now it reaches 3.1%. This substance is most consumed by women (prevalence 4% versus 2.1%) and among those over 25 years of age.

Behaviors with addictive potential

The Observatory survey also collects trends in three potentially addictive behaviors: the use of the internet for fun, gambling with face-to-face money and online gambling.

Internet consumption for leisure is not worrying in itself, but it has addictive potential, especially linked to online gambling

Joan R. Villabí, Government delegate for the National Plan on Drugs

On the internet for leisure, a very similar prevalence is observed before and during the pandemic (91.8% compared to 91.4%), but there is a notable increase in the time of use: 216.6 minutes a day on weekdays (147.2 before the covid) and 227.8 at the weekend (when before it was 163.3).

This use of the Internet, in the words of the delegate of the National Plan on Drugs, is not worrying in itself, but it is interesting to follow it because of how it is related to other addictive tendencies: “It is socially worrisome and has addictive potential, especially linked to internet gambling ”.

Precisely about the online game, the survey shows that it has remained stable before and during the pandemic (4.5% and 4.3%, respectively), with a higher prevalence in men and in those under 44 years of age. Regarding the face-to-face game, there is a lower prevalence during the pandemic (8.8% previously compared to 5.3% today).

Over 64

On the other hand, it is observed in the population over 64 years of age that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is lower than in the population aged 15 to 64 years, in both sexes, and in all age ranges. Thus, the prevalence of consumption in the elderly population has also fallen: from 34.2% before the covid to the current 31.8%.

Regarding tobacco consumption, a decrease in consumption was observed during the pandemic in both sexes and in all ages (10.9% before the pandemic, 8.9% currently), with the prevalence of consumption being higher in men.

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