Introduction and Aims: The increase in stress levels, social confinement, and addiction's physical consequences play an essential role in the proliferation of drug abuse. In this context, the Covid-19 pandemic produced remarkable effects on those individuals prone to addictions, especially to alcohol. Alcohol is linked to multiple dangerous conditions such as social issues, severe medical conditions, and road accidents. The determination of ethylglucuronide (EtG) in hair is frequently performed to test and monitor chronic excessive alcohol intake conditions, as it allows differentiation among low-risk/moderate drinkers, and excessive/chronic drinkers. Our study aimed to explore hair EtG levels in a controlled population to assess the impact of Covid-19 lockdown on alcohol intake along March-May 2020.
Materials and Methods: EtG levels were measured in all hair samples collected in the months following April 2020 to evaluate the behaviors related to alcohol intake along with the time frame from March to May 2020. The measured concentration distributions for each month were compared with those reported in the same month during the previous 4 years (2016–2019). The dataset was built to highlight possible differences between genders, and the different categories of alcohol consumption, separately.
Results: The samples collected from April to August 2020 (500 < N <1,100 per month) showed an increase in the percentage of subjects classified as abstinent/low-risk drinkers (from 60 up to 79%) and a decrease of subjects classified as moderate and chronic drinkers (−12 and −7%, respectively) when compared to the previous 4 years. A decrease in the overall mean value of EtG in the period April–June 2020 was observed, while the EtG levels of both June and July 2020 provided an increasing trend for chronic/excessive consumers (+27 and +19% for June and July 2020, respectively). A peculiar rise in the EtG levels of moderate and chronic/excessive female consumers was observed along April–June 2020, too.
Discussion and Conclusions: Behavioral and social studies generally report a decrease in alcohol consumption during the Covid-19 lockdown. However, people already suffering from drug or alcohol addictions before Covid-19 pandemic seemingly enhance their harmful behavior. Our data from April to August 2020 are consistent with both suppositions. Our observations confirm once again the utility of EtG to investigate the patterns of alcohol consumption in the population.