My name is Samantha Sallie, and I am a 2nd year PhD student under the guidance of Dr. Valerie Voon in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge. In addition to conducting research in psychological mechanisms of resilience, I previously trained in statistics and philosophy of science at the University of Pennsylvania and London School of Economics. Currently, I am focusing on detecting and modulating neural networks governing impulsivity and compulsivity in drug and alcohol addiction, via both invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation approaches. Relatedly, my most recent work aimed to understand how the stress of isolation affected alcohol consumption and problematic internet usage in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the future, I hope to pair stimulation methods and cognitive tasks assessing mood-based impulsivity to inform more biologically-driven clinical treatments of addiction disorders.
Alcohol consumption patterns during isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic: Highlighting negative emotionality mechanisms
Aims: The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has required drastic safety measures to control virus spread, including an extended self-isolation period. Stressful situations increase alcohol craving and consumption in both Alcohol-Use Disorder (AUD) and non-AUD drinkers. Thus, we assessed how social isolation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected drinking behaviours in the general adult population.
Methods: We developed an online international survey, Habit Tracker (HabiT), completed by 2,873 adults (>18 years), which measured changes in drinking behaviours before (post-hoc recall) and during the COVID-19 quarantine period (AUDIT). We also assessed psychiatric factors such as anxiety, depression (HADS), and impulsivity (SUPPS-P). Lastly, we related drinking behaviours to ten COVID-19-specific stress factors. The primary outcome measures were change in amount and severity of drinking behaviours before and during quarantine, and current drinking severity during quarantine. These three measures were related to the COVID-19-related stress factors, and current drinking severity to psychiatric symptomology.
Results: Although drinking behaviours decreased overall during quarantine, 36% reported an increase in alcohol use. Those who increased alcohol use during quarantine were older individuals, males, essential workers, individuals with children, those with a personal relationship with someone severely ill from COVID-19, and those with higher depression, anxiety, or positive urgency impulsivity.
Conclusions: Our findings highlight a role for identifying those vulnerable for alcohol misuse during periods of enforced self-isolation, and underscore the theoretical mechanism of negative emotionality underlying drinking behaviours driven by stress, depression, and anxiety. Future studies assessing long-term effects of isolation on drinking behaviours are indicated.