Joyce KM, Cameron EE, Sulymka J, Protudjer JLP, Roos LE
J Stud Alcohol Drugs 83 (3) 352-357 [2022-05-00; online 2022-05-20]
Maternal stress and mental health challenges have increased since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began. Experts are concerned about elevated substance use given its well-known association with negative emotions, but existing research has not examined substance use among mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a crucial next step to inform policy and service supports given links between maternal substance use and adverse family experiences. Data were collected online between April 14 and 28, 2020. A total of 508 mothers (mean age = 34.8 years, SD = 5.1) with children 0-8 years old participated via the Parenting During the Pandemic study. Mothers self-reported substance use change and motivations for using substances, as well as mental health symptoms. Of participating mothers, 54.9% did not change, 39.2% increased, and 5.9% decreased their substance use. Findings indicated that mothers with an anxiety disorder or elevated anxiety symptoms were more likely to report increased substance use during the pandemic. Using substances to cope with anxiety, depression, and boredom was elevated among mothers self-reporting increased substance use during the pandemic versus those reporting no change or a decrease in usage. Using substances to cope with anxiety was a risk factor for increased substance use. Many mothers have increased their substance use since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results highlight the need to treat maternal anxiety and the importance of teaching mothers coping strategies, other than using substances, to reduce the incidence of increased substance use among mothers and its negative sequelae.