Substance Use Disorders and COVID-19: Multi-Faceted Problems Which Require Multi-Pronged Solutions

Persistent use of alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, opioids and stimulants increase risk of substance use disorders (SUDs).  SUDs are increasingly viewed as biopsychosocial disorders with multiple risk factors interacting at individual and contextual levels with multiple health consequences. People who use alcohol and other drugs chronically frequently have co-morbid health conditions (e.g.,chronic and acute medical conditions, and psychiatric disorders) and environmental challenges (e.g., housing instability, unemployment, criminal justice involvement).

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on substance use: Implications for prevention and treatment


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought major challenges to healthcare systems and public health policies globally, as it requires novel treatment and prevention strategies to adapt for the impact of the pandemic. Individuals with substance use disorders (SUD) are at risk population for contamination due to multiple factors—attributable to their clinical, psychological and psychosocial conditions.

Moreover, social and economic changes caused by the pandemic, along with the traditional difficulties regarding treatment access and adherence—will certainly worsen during this period, therefore aggravate their condition. In addition, this population are potential vectors of transmission.

In that sense, specific strategies for prevention and treatment must be discussed. health care professionals dealing with SUD must be aware of the risks and challenges they will meet during and after the COVID-19 outbreak. Addiction care must be reinforced, instead of postponed, in order to avoid complications of both SUD and COVID-19 and to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

COVID-19 and Alcohol


How much are people drinking while staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are Canadians drinking more alcohol than usual and, if so, are they doing it more often? This webinar explored alcohol use during the pandemic, drawing on the results of a survey and polls commissioned by CCSA in spring 2020. The presentation highlighted resources to assist in reducing risks related to alcohol use during COVID-19.


Dr Catherine Paradis, Senior Research and Policy Analyst, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Dr Bryce Barker, Knowledge Broker, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Impact of pandemic on Addiction Treatment Centers in Latin America

Preliminary report of the study "Overall impact of the pandemic in the Addiction Treatment Centers of Latin America", which aims to explain the overall impact of pandemic and isolation measures in treatment centers, identify changes in demand for treatment and consumption profiles identified by institutions and, finally, systematize the main measures taken by institutions to address this context.

The study was carried out with a multicenter project. The multicenter model will be supported by each of the national chapters of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals (ISSUP) in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico)

The selection of treatment centers was made by means of the snowball technique within each chapter, with the questionnaire answering a total of 52 Treatment Centers.

The Prevention Professionals’ Primer on Media Literacy


Youth and young adults are bombarded with media depicting substances in a positive light, increasing the likelihood that they will use alcohol and other drugs.

Building skills in youth and young adults to critically analyse media messages may help reduce the impact of the pro-substance messages on youth and young adults.

This primer will provide a basic overview of media literacy that provides prevention professionals with an overview of what media literacy is and ideas for incorporating it into prevention work.

COVID-19 and the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders: International and Local Perspectives

ATTC and SANCA National
Event Date
South Africa
South Africa

COVID-19, along with the associated restrictions, has and continues to impact on the access to and provision of health care services. This talk hones in on the impact of services for substance use disorders, presenting new insights arising from current research. Hosted by the South Africa HIV Addiciton Technology Transfer Centre (UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health), and SANCA National.

Event Language


Listening and Strategic Discussion Series


Emerging Issues Around COVID-19 and Social Determinants of Health for the Substance Use Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Workforces.


The Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network, and the Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Networkfacilitated a national online discussion and resource sharing opportunity in April and May 2020 for the substance use (SU) prevention, treatment, and recovery workforces focused on emerging issues around social determinants of health (SDH) and COVID-19.

The goal of the series is to engage diverse community voices and create space and structure to hear from these communities about the following issues:

  • How has COVID-19 further highlighted racial and ethnic disparities?
  • What is the impact on the communities and those with substance use disorder?
  • What is the impact on the SU prevention, treatment and recovery workforces?
  • What strategies and resources are needed to mitigate these impacts?

You can find recordings, slides and thematic reports from the sessions and discussions here.

CONVERSATIONAL Practices in the area of drug use in times of pandemic

CONVERSATIONAL Practices in the area of drug use in times of pandemic. July 6-14, exclusive activity for PARTNERS of ISSUP Chile
Event Date
Santiago de Chile

During the pandemic confinement, those working in substance use have had to look for the best way to deal with this period of uncertainty, rethinking, in many cases, new ways of continuing to support the people they work with.

In this context, the Chilean Chapter of ISSUP has set itself the challenge of collecting the work experiences of its members, through the methodology of conversations,whose final purpose is to generate content relevant to the experience of work and intervention in the context of the COVID 19 phenomenon.

This is an exclusive partner activity and we look forward to meeting to reflect on the challenges of this stage and the new responses generated. We have organized thematic conversations that will be held through the ZOOM platform between July 6 and 14.

Enter the topic link and choose the schedule that suits you, near the date you will receive the connection link. To encourage dialogue, each group will be moderated by a member of the Board and quotas are limited in each group.

Event Language


UNODC Webinar: Drug Treatment, Care & Recovery for People, Families & Communities in the COVID-19 Crisis in Southeast Asia

UNODC Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Section (PTRS), in collaboration with the WHO, International Experts from Australia and Italy, the Colombo Plan, UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (ROSEAP) and field offices in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam), organized UNODC web seminar entitled “Drug Dependence Treatment, Care and Rehabilitation Support for People, Families, and Communities affected by Drug Use Disorders in the COVID19 Crisis in Southeast Asia” on 12 June 2020. The webinar was organized building on UNODC’s technical guidance document “UNODC Suggestions about Treatment, Care and Rehabilitation of People with Drug Use Disorders in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Its major objectives included: 1) share useful guidance, information, materials in provision of drug treatment and rehabilitation services in the COVID19 crisis; 2) Discuss challenges on the ground among regional and national experts with support from international experts; and 3) Share good practices in adapting to COVID19 situation and preparedness. Overall, 72 policymakers and drug treatment experts from 8 Southeast Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, presented in this webinar.

The webinar was opened together by Ms. Giovanna Campello, Chief of PTRS UNODC Vienna, Ms. Karen Peters, Programme Officer UNODC ROSEAP, Dr. Carrina Ferreira-Borges, Programme Manager, WHO Regional Office for Europe, Ms. Nathalie Panabokke, Deputy Director, Drug Advisory Programme of the Colombo Plan. As Keynote presentations, Ms. Anja Busse, Programme Officer PTRS, provided an overview of the UNODC’s suggestions for treatment, Care and Rehabilitation; Dr. Carina Ferreira-Borges, WHO European Office, briefed the WHO interim guidance document “Preparedness, Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention”; Dr. Nicolas Clark (Australia), Director of Victoria medically supervised injecting center and Dr. Giuseppe Carra (Italy), Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Milano Bicocca shared their practices and lessons learned in their clinical service provision from their frontline drug treatment experiences in the COVID-19 context. After these presentations, the participants exchanged ideas and discussed challenges to ensure the provision of drug treatment and rehabilitation services in this challenging time. The webinar concluded with the commitment to further collaboration and mutual support among participants.


UNODC suggestions for Drug Treatment and Care in COVID-19 for SEA

EMCDDA webinar: COVID-19 and drug policy

Event Date

Background: this is the 6th EMCDDA webinar on the Coronavirus. It will be exploring with the help of three experts from Northern, Central, Southern European EU countries (Finland, Greece and The Netherlands) whether the COVID-19 related emergency is having or is going to have any impact on Drugs Policy.

Speakers: Speakers are Horizontal Drugs Group members with policy responsibility is their respective national administration.

  • Elina Kotorvita, Ministerial Adviser Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland;
  • Gerasimos Papanastasatos, Office of the National Drug Coordinator of Greece;
  • Victor Sannes, National Drug Coordinator Deputy Director of Nutrition, Health Protection and Prevention Department Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, The Netherlands

Format: EMCDDA Director opening remarks, panelists questions guided discussion, Q&A from attendees.

Questions will be:

  • Main question 1) Could you describe how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected different aspects of drug policy in your country?
  • Main question 2) To what extent do you think the changes observed in different aspects of drug policy will remain in place in the medium-term or if the pandemic ends?
  • Main question 3) How do you think drug problems will evolve in the next year or two?

Date and time: 7 July 12.00-13.30 (WET/Lisbon) 13.00-14.30 (CET/Brussels)

26th June International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking, 2020

To commemorate 26th June International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking, 2020 ISSUP Pakistan and Youth Forum Pakistan (For Substance Use Prevention) arranged a zoom meeting with ISSUP Members and Youth Forum Pakistan’s Team Sialkot which was hosted by Mr. Muhammad Aslam Member President M A Jinnah Foundation (Regd) and recorded and video messages for youth and the general public to create awareness about substance use disorders.

26th June International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking, 2020

UNODC Supports National Partners in Ensuring the Continuity and Sustainability of Treatment, Care and Rehabilitation during the COVID-19 Pandemic for People who Use Drugs

UNODC Mentor initiated webinar held on 24 June 2020 in Uzbekistan. The purpose of the webinar was to create a forum for national experts to share valuable international experience on how to ensure the continuity and sustainability of drug dependence treatment, HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for people who use drugs and how to implement evidence-based policies that ensure access to effective drug dependence treatment and HIV programmes for people who use drugs.

In his presentation Mentor outlined increasing challenges for treatment and care during COVID-19, UNODC suggestions about treatment, care and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorders in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, monitoring COVID-19 impact and ensuring continuum of treatment  services during COVID-19. 

Second presentation made by Mr. Andrey Mokiy, Leading Specialist of the National Information-Analytical Center on Drug Control under the Cabinet of Ministries of the Republic of Uzbekistan was devoted to the dynamics of the drug situation in the West Europe and Central Asia as well as  development of drug sells through Internet in the region during COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants also discussed experience of adaptation of the forms and methods of providing drug dependence treatment and care services to the new conditions. Results of providing remote counselling, initiated by the team of national UTC trainers, were presented.

A total of 50 health care providers and representatives of NGOs involved in drug dependence treatment, HIV prevention, care and support services to people who use drugs were reported to attend the webinar and they expressed high interest to continue the work of the forum.

The activity was conducted within the framework of the UNODC global project GLOJ71: “Treating drug dependence and its health consequences: Treatnet II”

Webinar session

Alcohol and Tobacco Prohibition During SA Lockdown

Event Date
South Africa

Hosted by SANCA National and the South Africa HIV Addiction Technology Transfer Centre (University of Cape Town). 

A discussion of the impact of the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco during the unprecedented lockdown in SA, to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve. We explore the impact from a few perspectives. Panelists include Prof Charles Parry from SAMRC, Mr Shaun Shelley from TB HIV Care and SANPUD, and Ms Adrie Vermeulen from SANCA National.

Tue, Jun 23, 2020 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM BST

CND Special Event

Event Date

The 63rd CND will hold a Special Virtual Event commemorating the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking including the Launch of the World Drug Report 2020 and followed by a discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on the world drug situation.

Friday, 26 June 2020, 2:00 p.m. CEST (Vienna)

Online at

The event will feature the presentation of the main findings of the World Drug Report 2020 followed by a panel discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world drug situation, from a regional perspective.
The VNGOC selected four civil society representatives through an open call to participate in the event and in addition our chair, Jamie Bridge will be part of the panel discussion. 

The event is taking place virtually and all civil society organisations are invited to watch the special event online

UNODC Ensuring Continuum of Care for People Who Use and Inject Drugs, Including Those in Prisons During COVID-19 in Coastal Kenya

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Eastern Africa (ROEA) supports Kenyan counties in COVID-19 prevention efforts for key and most vulnerable populations. In the spirit of leaving no one behind, acknowledging the increased infection risks of people who use and inject drugs, including those in prison settings, an in an effort to be COVID-19 responsive, UNODC focused its technical and financial support to expand the range existing and new services offered by UNODC to these populations. 

UNODC provided prevention equipment and commodities to ensure that both staff and clients remain safe and coronavirus-free. To guarantee safe working conditions for clinic staff, drop-in center staff and outreach workers, and the safety of clients 5,000 medical examination gloves, 8 automatic sanitizer dispensers, 405 litres of hand sanitizer, 50 bottles of hand washing gel, 20 kg of washing powder soap, 280 N95 masks and 3,100 three-ply surgical masks for health care workers were delivered to treatment and care services. An additional 3,200 re-usable waterproof textile masks were distributed to all Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT) client who cannot afford one. More commodities are currently being procured to support people living and working in prisons.

During this unprecedented crisis, people who use and inject drugs require the same level of care and prevention measures that are offered to the general population. In this context, UNODC was able to support five (5) Civil Society Organizations to roll-out community mobilization and sensitization among people who use and inject drugs, as well as to ensure the continuity of HIV comprehensive package of services delivery, continuum of care and to maintain client's adherence to drug treatment. 

Moreover, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national government's directive has put measures of restricted movement in certain areas within high risk counties in place, such as Mombasa, specifically Old Town to respond to the increasing incidences. This lockdown has led to restricted access to services for people who use and inject drugs within these areas. UNODC supports the collaborative efforts of Central Government through the Ministry of Health, County Health Authorities and Civil Society Organizations in the Coastal Counties of Kenya to provide continues drug use disorder treatment services and comprehensive HIV prevention, including outreach, psychosocial support and other social services. 

To decrease the risks of increased infections through movements of people from a locality of high incidence and further compounded by a highly congested MAT clinic, UNODC has partnered with the Kenya Red Cross Society to initiate a mobile dispensing facility to MAT clients living within the lockdown areas in Mombasa. This is the first of such dispensing modality in Kenya. Similarly, in order to further limit the movements of MAT clients, a number of them are receiving take home dosing under close supervision of their relatives. In parallel, similar measures will soon be introduced in Nairobi and Kiambu, to guarantee uninterrupted access to the needs of clients and at the same time create safe working conditions for clinic staff and service users through decongestion of the facilities. In Kilifi county, a "take home" initiative has been initiated for MAT clients in the prisons who were taken by escorts to the MAT clinic in Malindi on a daily basis before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is important to remember that people who use and inject drugs are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their immunocompromised status as a result of their underlying medical conditions like HIV, TB and Hepatitis C, further compounded by stigma and social marginalization. Providing timely assistance to the counties, the Civil Society Organizations, people who use or inject drugs and their families will contribute to national efforts to keep all populations safe and COVID-19 free. 

COVID-19: Online and Remote Resources for Addiction Support

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has put together information on the potential implications of this pandemic on those who struggle with substance use disorder.

The social distancing that is required during this COVID-19 outbreak has put a strain on families impacted by addiction. Self-imposed isolation can disconnect us from the very tools that keep us resilient and strong, making us vulnerable to fear.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids + Center on Addiction have gathered a selection of mental health resources, and links to addiction support for families and individuals.

Regional Dialogue on Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs of PSUDs in the Context of Wuhan Virus Pandemic

Iqbal Masud
Event Date

We are going to organize 2nd Regional Facebook Live Program on 12 June 2020 at 7.30 PM, Bangladesh, 7.00 PM India, 8:30 PM Thailand and Indonesia, 9:30 PM Philippines. The topic of the program is Regional Dialogue on Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs of People with Substance Use Disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The speakers will be Danai Indrakamhaeng
Psychiatrist, Bangkok Hospital, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Junjun Abella MAC RGC RC ICAP III
Serenity in the Steps - Colombo Plan education provider
ISSUP Advisory Board &
Global Master Trainer, Philippine, Aditi Ghanekar
Addiction Counsellor & Global Master Trainer, 
Chennai, India, Rosita Dewi Eka Renel
Addiction Counsellor - National Narcotics Board of  Republic of Indonesia and Iqbal Masud, Bangladesh will moderate the program. 
The live program will be on aired from facebook page- Please connect  with the program and share your valuable comments and questions.

Event Language


Alcohol consumption in quarantine

When Argentine families closed to meet the quarantine imposed by the coronavirus, memes emerged as the possibility of spying on what is happening inside. Images such as a row of green beer bottles lining a house and field, and a caption in yellow capital letters that warns: "Two more weeks of quarantine and end the median." Or an image of Morticia Addams, who watches holding a cup of tea in her hands, and asks, "How are you with isolation? Have you noticed that they are not social drinkers? The viralization of these jokes about alcohol consumption attracted the interest of a group of researchers from the CONICET of the Gino Germani Institute (IIGG), who launched a survey to find out how much was drunk before and how many during quarantine, and found that the number of people who consume alcoholic beverages tripled each day.

UNODC Trained Treatment and Care Professionals Providing Valuable Support to People with Drug Use Disorders in Bukhara Region of Uzbekistan during COVID-19

Introduction of the quarantine measures in Bukhara Region, Uzbekistan made it extremely difficult to provide drug dependence treatment services to the population of the region. This negatively affected the quality of life of people with drug use disorders (PWDUD) and of their families, and in many cases led to a relapse of drug use disorders in patients. 

In order to avoid collapse in this area and prevent worsening of the situation there was an urgent need to adapt the forms and methods of providing drug dependence treatment and care services to the existing conditions.  Such response was initiated and carried out by the team of specialists comprising of 31 drug dependence treatment professionals from Bukhara Regional Narcology Center and district narcology points. To enhance the understanding on evidence-based treatment and care, all of the 31 professionals were trained on all courses of the Basic Level UTC training package during a series of echo-trainings conducted  within the framework of the UNODC Global Project GLOJ71 “Treating drug dependence and its health consequences: TREATNET II”.

Due to the conducted activities, the access for people in need to receive the necessary information to address drug dependence problems and implement the preventive care has been greatly facilitated. By the middle of May 2020 each of the 20 treatment and care professionals of the Bukhara Regional Narcology Center provided online counseling on various topics to 3-5 people a day, which amounted to about 2,400 calls during a month of quarantine measures. 11 district addiction professionals conducted approximately 5-6 online consultations a day, with about 1,700 being undertaken in a month. Moreover, all 31 staff completed a total of around 4,000 online consultations per month. About 70% of PWDUD and members of their families are now covered with on-the-phone psychosocial support. About 30% of these cases were people concerned about family members becoming vulnerable to drug use. 12 professionals attended an online advanced training. About 15 appeals were made to the Crisis Center, and 36 patients were transported and hospitalized in a timely manner with the support of law enforcement agencies.  

Psychosocial support during COVID-19, Uzbekistan

Video: ISSUP South Africa - COVID-19: What can be done through us

In partnership with ISSUP Global, ISSUP South Africa presented a webinar on COVID-19: What can be done through us

Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Presenter: David Bayever

David Bayever serveDavid Bayevers on the SAPharmacy Council as an Assessor, Examiner and Researcher. He is currently the Chairperson of South Africa's Central Drug Authority, and he also serves as a Member of SAHPRA Cannabis Working Committee and Member of Technical Task Team on Public Health     Dimensions of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Problems. David is a member of DoH Ministerial Advisory Committee on Cannabis. He is also a Director of South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport. The Minister of State Security appointed David in 2013 to the South African Experts Delegation to BRICS NSA as a member of National Intelligence Coordinating Committee for Anti-Drug Cooperation.

ISSUP South Africa