OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted peoples’ ability to buy, sell, and obtain items that they use in their daily lives. It may have had a particularly negative effect on the ability of people who use illicit opioids to obtain them since the networks they rely upon are illicit and not a part of the formal economy. Our objective in this research was to examine if, and how, disruptions to illicit opioid markets related to Covid-19 have affected people who use illicit opioids.
METHOD: We collected three hundred posts—including replies to posts—related to the intersection of Covid-19 and opioid use from Reddit.com, a forum that has several discussion threads (i.e., subreddits) dedicated to opioids. We then coded posts from the two most popular opioid subreddits during the early pandemic period (March 5, 2020-May 13, 2020) using an inductive/deductive approach.
RESULTS: We found two themes related to active opioid use during the early pandemic: (1) changes in drug supply and difficulty obtaining opioids, and (2) buying less trustworthy drugs from lesser-known sources.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that COVID-19 has created market conditions that place people who use opioids at risk of adverse outcomes, such as fatal overdose.
Covid-19-related changes to drug-selling networks and their effects on people who use illicit opioids
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 84 (2), 222-229. doi: 10.15288/jsad.21-00438. PMCID: PMC10171252.