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Informal coping strategies among people who use opioids during COVID-19: A thematic analysis of Reddit forums
Abstract

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how people seeking to reduce opioid use access treatment services and navigate efforts to abstain from using opioids. Social distancing policies have drastically reduced access to many forms of social support, but they may have also upended some perceived barriers to reducing or abstaining from opioid use.

OBJECTIVE: This qualitative study aimed to identify informal coping strategies for reducing and abstaining from opioid use among Reddit users who have posted in opioid-related subreddits at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: We extracted data from two major opioid-related subreddits. Thematic data analysis was used to evaluate subreddit posts dated from March 5, 2020 to May 13, 2020 that referenced COVID-19 and opioid use, resulting in a final sample of 300 posts that were coded and analyzed.

RESULTS: Of the 300 subreddit posts, 100 discussed at least one type of informal coping strategy. Those strategies included: psychological and behavioral coping skills, adopting healthy habits, and using substances to manage withdrawal symptoms. Twelve subreddit posts explicitly mentioned using social distancing as an opportunity for cessation or reduction of opioid use.

CONCLUSIONS: Reddit discussion forums provided a community for people to share strategies for reducing opioid use and support others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future research needs to assess the impact of COVID-19 on opioid use behaviors, especially during periods of limited treatment access and isolation, as these can inform future efforts in curbing the opioid epidemic and other substance related harms.

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Full citation:
Arshonsky J, Krawczyk N, Bunting AM, Frank D, Friedman SR, Bragg MA (2022).
Informal coping strategies among people who use opioids during COVID-19: A thematic analysis of Reddit forums
JMIR Formative Research, 6 (3), e32871. doi: 10.2196/32871.