Ten months ago, New York City ordered nightclubs, bars and music venues to shut their doors in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, much like the rest of the world. And now that they have been forced to stay at home, former clubgoers have been ditching cocaine, molly, and acid in favor of weed.
For a new study published in last month's Substance Use & Misuse journal, researchers from New York University’s Langone Health Center surveyed 128 adults to discover how the pandemic influenced their drug intake. The study authors explain that they chose to interview “electronic dance music (EDM) partygoers” for this survey, as they are “a population known for high levels of drug use.”
In an anonymous online survey, each participant was asked to self-report their drug intake between March and May of 2020. As expected, researchers found that the majority of participants had greatly reduced their intake of popular party drugs. Specifically, 78.6 percent reported using cocaine less often, 71.1 percent reported reduced frequency of MDMA (aka molly or ecstasy) use, and 68 percent said they were dropping acid less frequently.
But while most users were taking a break from hard drugs, over a third of all respondents (35 percent) said that they were using cannabis more often during the pandemic. Another third said that they were continuing to smoke as much weed as they used to, and only 32 percent said they were using less pot.
The researchers suggest that some clubgoers may be doing fewer party drugs because the pandemic has made them less accessible. Travel restrictions have made drug trafficking more difficult than ever, and drug dealers in the US and Europe have seen their supply of coke, speed, and other chemicals dry up. And as supply has shrunk, prices have been rising dramatically.
There's another important reason why people have been smoking more weed and doing fewer party drugs during the pandemic, though. This April, a national poll found that 73 percent of cannabis consumers were using weed to help them deal with the stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic. The pandemic helped boost US legal weed sales to over $18 billion last year, with many states reporting over $1 billion in annual sales.
“Cannabis is the substance of choice when at home and… during social distancing people were at home more,” said Dr. Patricia Frye, professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and medical director of a Maryland medical marijuana company, to the Observer. “And/or, cannabis use increased to treat anxiety, depression, and/or stress which escalated during the pandemic.”
“Party drug use tends to decrease when [drug users] are confined to nonsocial and non-nightlife settings,” the authors concluded. “Cannabis was the one drug examined in our study that is not typically considered a party drug, so it is not unexpected that results here diverged compared to the other drugs examined.”