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Substance use during COVID-19 pandemic

DISCOVERIES (ISSN 2359-7232), 2021, October-December issue


Chacon NC, Walia N, Allen A, Sciancalepore A, Tiong J, Quick R, Mada S, Diaz MA, Rodriguez I. Substance use during COVID-19 pandemic: impact on the underserved communities. Discoveries 2021, 9(4): e141. DOI: 10.15190/d.2021.20

Submitted: Nov. 22, 2021; Revised: Dec. 14, 2021; Accepted: Dec. 16, 2021; Published: Dec. 31, 2021

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Substance use during COVID-19 pandemic: impact on the underserved communities

Natalia C. Chacon (1,*), Namrata Walia (1,2), Abigail Allen (1,3), Anthony Sciancalepore (1), Joyce Tiong (1,2), Rachel Quick (1), Sanjana Mada (1,4), Miguel A. Diaz (5), Ivan Rodriguez (5)

(1) The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, Houston, TX, USA 

(2) Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA

(3) University of Texas at San Antonio, TX, USA 

(4) Paul L Foster School of Medicine, El Paso, TX, USA 

(5) Department of Family Medicine, Larkin Community Hospital, Florida, USA

*Corresponding authors: Natalia C. Chacon, The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, Houston, TX, USA; Email: natalia.c.chacon@uth.tmc.edu


The number of overdose deaths are on the rise all over the world. An estimate of 93,000 drug overdose deaths have been estimated in the United States in 2020. COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the drug crisis. Factors, such as existing health disparities among underserved communities, lack of resources for people of color, lack of belief in available resources, social isolation and economic burden, limited access to treatment, regulatory barriers in telehealth, and stress from the on-going COVID-19 pandemic have been identified as some of the key factors behind the acute health effects of people with substance use disorder. These interrelated factors exacerbate the impact of already existing disparities in the underserved communities. Policy and regulatory changes around telehealth and access of treatment for substance use disorder are warranted. Evidence-based strategies and other safer drug practices should be implemented to mitigate the impact on human health. Investment in programs that increase access to treatment, will be useful for potential future pandemics, where increasing mental health services and overall access to healthcare in disadvantaged communities would lessen the disparities in physical and mental ailments. In this review, we are evaluating and summarizing the acute health effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with substance use disorder.

Access full text of the manuscript here: 


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