Volatile drug use and overdose during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

Publication date: Mar 05, 2024

Overdose deaths in the United States rose substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disruptions to the drug supply and service provision introduced significant instability into the lives of people who use drugs (PWUD), including volatility in their drug use behaviors. Using data from a multistate survey of PWUD, we examined sociodemographic and drug use correlates of volatile drug use during COVID-19 using multivariable linear regression. In a multivariable logistic regression model, we assessed the association between volatile drug use and past month overdose adjusting for sociodemographic and other drug use characteristics. Among participants, 52% were male, 50% were white, 29% had less than a high school education, and 25% were experiencing homelessness. Indicators of volatile drug use were prevalent: 53% wanted to use more drugs; 45% used more drugs; 43% reported different triggers for drug use, and 23% used drugs that they did not typically use. 14% experienced a past-month overdose. In adjusted models, hunger (β=0. 47, 95% CI: 0. 21-0. 72), transactional sex (β=0. 50, 95% CI: 0. 06-0. 94), and the number of drugs used (β=0. 16, 95% CI: 0. 07-0. 26) were associated with increased volatile drug use. Volatile drug use was associated with increased overdose risk (aOR=1. 42, 95% CI: 1. 17-1. 71) in the adjusted model. Volatile drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic was common, appeared to be driven by structural vulnerability, and was associated with increased overdose risk. Addressing volatile drug use through interventions that ensure structural stability for PWUD and a safer drug supply is essential for mitigating the ongoing overdose crisis.

Concepts Keywords
Education Drug market
Homelessness Overdose
Models Structural vulnerability
Month Volatile drug use


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 pandemic

Original Article

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