JULY 16, 2021 — The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic brought many relevant issues to light. One question on the minds of many in the health care industry: How can psychologists and other clinicians better serve patients struggling with drug abuse issues?
Aiming to answer that question is a researcher in UTSA’s College for Health, Community and Policy, which is committed to improving the health of individuals and their communities.
UTSA researcher and assistant professor of public health Jeffrey Howard, working in collaboration with researchers at Texas State University, recently published the results of a study on pandemic-related work status and its association with self-reported increases in substance use in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health.
In addition to the anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic itself, the researchers considered the added stress of abrupt changes in employment status that may have exacerbated maladaptive coping strategies—such as an increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and opioids. By zeroing in on the triggers that prompted an uptick in drug use, the team hopes to ultimately devise a roadmap that lays out healthier ways for patients to cope.
“When the pandemic started and the initial stay-at-home orders began, we suspected that there would be enormous stress placed on individuals, and that some of this would be related to changing work status,” Howard said. “We wanted to get an early measure of these impacts and how they may be related to substance use.”
The research, led by Krista Howard, a psychology professor at Texas State University, used a nationwide randomized Facebook-sponsored ad campaign to recruit online participants. The campaign ran from April 14 to April 22, 2020, when the initial stay-at-home protocols were enacted. By this time in 2020, millions of people had been furloughed or laid off and filing for unemployment benefits—bumping the country’s unemployment rate up to 14.7%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The ad was targeted at random newsfeeds of 76,110 Facebook users in the U.S. aged 18 and older. Participants were asked to fill out an anonymous online study focused on psychological responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2,267 individuals who participated in the survey were asked about their current work status, demographic factors and substance use behavior.
Looking at behaviors such as number of cigarettes smoked, amount of alcohol consumed, use of marijuana and use of opioids for pain, participants were asked to state if their use of these substances had gone in one of four ways: stayed the same, increased, decreased, or was not applicable—and thus not an issue for respondents.
The study showed that individuals who became unemployed due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accounted for the majority of those who reverted to unhealthy substance use behaviors to cope. Within this group:
In addition, individuals who were working outside the home, largely “essential” workers and those who changed to work-from-home arrangements, also reported significant increases in alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and marijuana use. Individuals who lost their jobs reported the largest percent who increased the use of opioids (33%).
“The main conclusion from this research was that during a population-level event like this, numerous stressors are placed on workers—not only the loss of a job, but also the conditions of jobs that suddenly change,” Howard said. “For example, the demand for essential workers to continue working in the public despite exposure risk, requirements for extended hours, and caring for children and elders while working at home, all represent significant stressors for different groups of workers.”
The Racial Justice Book Club was established at UTSA by members of the campus community to explore social justice following acts of racial violence across the nation over the last few years. We are reading The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas by Monica Muñoz Martinez. We will meet every Wednesday in September and October at 2 pm on Zoom.Virtual Event
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at our very own street fair - Calle UTSA. We will have activities, performances, food, music, and piñatas to break open.Student Union Paseo
"La Plática" is a space for thoughtful dialogue to build a sense of connection among the Roadrunner Community by getting to know each other better and sharing what's on our minds and about ourselves to increase to increase awareness of diverse perspectives.Virtual Event
This September 30, the Friday Series will feature Prof. Milena Ang, who will be presenting A Tren to Nowhere: Statistic Development and the Politics of Racial, a paper co-authored with Tania Islas-Weistein where they discuss Mexico's long history of state-led development projects that contribute to economic and racial inequality. The authors argue that despite professing racial justice, official discourses surrounding the Tren Maya reproduce existing symbolic and material forms of racism.McKinney Humanities (MH 4.01.01,) Main Campus
We invite you to learn about the process of screenwriting and explore the intersection of identity and pursuing dreams from Jorge Ramirez-Martinez and Raymond Perez, screenwriters for the Selena: The Series, released on Netflix. They will discuss their careers and writing process, including how their identities as Mexican American and gay men have shaped their professional experiences.Virtual Event
Please join us in remembering those who have entered the next part of life by designing a nicho box in their memory. This workshop will provide the necessary items to create your nicho box, though please remember to bring a photo or small object that can fit in a 3.5 x5x1 inch box (small jewelry box).John Peace Library GroupSpot B, Main Campus
LMSA invites you to join us in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month through an interactive cooking lesson! This cultural experience will teach you how to prepare a popular Mexican dish, street taquitos. You will be able to sample this dish and learn the recipe to use in your own home.Recreation Wellness Center Demo Kitchen
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.