There’s been a debate for some years around the idea that limiting access to a drug or alcohol can reduce its use.
Well, the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be a great test of that thesis.
According to a study analyzing data taken from high school seniors and recently published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, binge drinking and cannabis use did not decline by as much as expected in 2020, despite the perception that the supply of both had dropped.
Interestingly, vaping rates did decline.
What’s it all mean?
Teens are resourceful – and despite the limits imposed by the pandemic, they were still able to acquire alcohol and pot despite being underage.
Were they able to acquire them as easily as they did before the pandemic?
According to the data summarized here by MedicalExpress:
For marijuana, the fraction of students who reported “fairly” or “very” easy access dropped by 17 percentage points, from 76% in the spring before the pandemic to 59% during the pandemic, and for alcohol, it dropped by 24 percentage points, from 86% to 62%. These were the largest year-to-year decreases in perceived availability of marijuana and alcohol ever recorded since the survey began in 1975. Prior to 2020, the largest recorded decreases were only two percentage points for marijuana, and one percentage point for alcohol. Between the spring and summer of 2020, there was also a sharp decrease in respondents who said they could “fairly” or “very” easily obtain a vaping device, going from 73% before the pandemic to 63% during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges, cannabis use by these teens during the pandemic dropped by just 13%, while binge drinking declined by approximately 24%.
According to Richard A. Miech, Ph.D., lead author of the study, “These findings suggest that reducing adolescent substance use through attempts to restrict supply alone would be a difficult undertaking.”
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