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      The Effects of the Lockdown during the COVID-19 Pandemic on Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption Behavior in Germany


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          Similar to other countries, the government of Germany has implemented various restrictions of social life in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. This results in millions of people being isolated for long periods, which may increase feelings of worry and anxiety. As the consumption of alcohol and tobacco is an often used dysfunctional strategy to cope with such feelings, these restrictions might cause an increase of consumption. Already at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that increased alcohol consumption during the lockdown can increase the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in the future. However, up to now little is known about the changes in alcohol-drinking behavior and tobacco smoking in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic.


          To address this theme, we investigated the changes in alcohol and tobacco consumption in the German population aged between 18 and 80 years via an online survey.


          In total, 3,245 persons participated in the survey; 35.5% of them reported an increase in drinking during the lockdown (42.9% did not change their drinking behavior, 21.3% drank less, and 0.3% started drinking). The odds of consuming more alcohol during lockdown were associated with middle age, higher subjective stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lower agreement with the importance of the restrictions, and consuming alcohol more than once per week before the lockdown. Also, 45.8% of the participants increased their smoking during the lockdown. The odds of smoking more during lockdown were associated with higher subjective stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


          These findings suggest that it is important to start campaigns to inform the general population about potential long-term effects of increased alcohol and tobacco consumption and to raise the health-care professionals' awareness of this topic.

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          Most cited references14

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          The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence

          Summary The December, 2019 coronavirus disease outbreak has seen many countries ask people who have potentially come into contact with the infection to isolate themselves at home or in a dedicated quarantine facility. Decisions on how to apply quarantine should be based on the best available evidence. We did a Review of the psychological impact of quarantine using three electronic databases. Of 3166 papers found, 24 are included in this Review. Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger. Stressors included longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma. Some researchers have suggested long-lasting effects. In situations where quarantine is deemed necessary, officials should quarantine individuals for no longer than required, provide clear rationale for quarantine and information about protocols, and ensure sufficient supplies are provided. Appeals to altruism by reminding the public about the benefits of quarantine to wider society can be favourable.
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            Is Open Access

            COVID-19 and smoking: A systematic review of the evidence

            COVID-19 is a coronavirus outbreak that initially appeared in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019, but it has already evolved into a pandemic spreading rapidly worldwide 1,2 . As of 18 March 2020, a total number of 194909 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, including 7876 deaths, the majority of which have been reported in China (3242) and Italy (2505) 3 . However, as the pandemic is still unfortunately under progression, there are limited data with regard to the clinical characteristics of the patients as well as to their prognostic factors 4 . Smoking, to date, has been assumed to be possibly associated with adverse disease prognosis, as extensive evidence has highlighted the negative impact of tobacco use on lung health and its causal association with a plethora of respiratory diseases 5 . Smoking is also detrimental to the immune system and its responsiveness to infections, making smokers more vulnerable to infectious diseases 6 . Previous studies have shown that smokers are twice more likely than non-smokers to contract influenza and have more severe symptoms, while smokers were also noted to have higher mortality in the previous MERS-CoV outbreak 7,8 . Given the gap in the evidence, we conducted a systematic review of studies on COVID-19 that included information on patients’ smoking status to evaluate the association between smoking and COVID-19 outcomes including the severity of the disease, the need for mechanical ventilation, the need for intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalization and death. The literature search was conducted on 17 March 2020, using two databases (PubMed, ScienceDirect), with the search terms: [‘smoking’ OR ‘tobacco’ OR ‘risk factors’ OR ‘smoker*’] AND [‘COVID-19’ OR ‘COVID 19’ OR ‘novel coronavirus’ OR ‘sars cov-2’ OR ‘sars cov 2’] and included studies published in 2019 and 2020. Further inclusion criteria were that the studies were in English and referred to humans. We also searched the reference lists of the studies included. A total of 71 studies were retrieved through the search, of which 66 were excluded after full-text screening, leaving five studies that were included. All of the studies were conducted in China, four in Wuhan and one across provinces in mainland China. The populations in all studies were patients with COVID-19, and the sample size ranged from 41 to 1099 patients. With regard to the study design, retrospective and prospective methods were used, and the timeframe of all five studies covered the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic (December 2019, January 2020). Specifically, Zhou et al. 9 studied the epidemiological characteristics of 191 individuals infected with COVID-19, without, however, reporting in more detail the mortality risk factors and the clinical outcomes of the disease. Among the 191 patients, there were 54 deaths, while 137 survived. Among those that died, 9% were current smokers compared to 4% among those that survived, with no statistically significant difference between the smoking rates of survivors and non-survivors (p=0.21) with regard to mortality from COVID-19. Similarly, Zhang et al. 10 presented clinical characteristics of 140 patients with COVID-19. The results showed that among severe patients (n=58), 3.4% were current smokers and 6.9% were former smokers, in contrast to non-severe patients (n=82) among which 0% were current smokers and 3.7% were former smokers , leading to an OR of 2.23; (95% CI: 0.65–7.63; p=0.2). Huang et al. 11 studied the epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19 among 41 patients. In this study, none of those who needed to be admitted to an ICU (n=13) was a current smoker. In contrast, three patients from the non-ICU group were current smokers, with no statistically significant difference between the two groups of patients (p=0.31), albeit the small sample size of the study. The largest study population of 1099 patients with COVID-19 was provided by Guan et al. 12 from multiple regions of mainland China. Descriptive results on the smoking status of patients were provided for the 1099 patients, of which 173 had severe symptoms, and 926 had non-severe symptoms. Among the patients with severe symptoms, 16.9% were current smokers and 5.2% were former smokers, in contrast to patients with non-severe symptoms where 11.8% were current smokers and 1.3% were former smokers. Additionally, in the group of patients that either needed mechanical ventilation, admission to an ICU or died, 25.5% were current smokers and 7.6% were former smokers. In contrast, in the group of patients that did not have these adverse outcomes, only 11.8% were current smokers and 1.6% were former smokers. No statistical analysis for evaluating the association between the severity of the disease outcome and smoking status was conducted in that study. Finally, Liu et al. 13 found among their population of 78 patients with COVID-19 that the adverse outcome group had a significantly higher proportion of patients with a history of smoking (27.3%) than the group that showed improvement or stabilization (3.0%), with this difference statistically significant at the p=0.018 level. In their multivariate logistic regression analysis, the history of smoking was a risk factor of disease progression (OR=14.28; 95% CI: 1.58–25.00; p= 0.018). We identified five studies that reported data on the smoking status of patients infected with COVID-19. Notably, in the largest study that assessed severity, there were higher percentages of current and former smokers among patients that needed ICU support, mechanical ventilation or who had died, and a higher percentage of smokers among the severe cases 12 . However, from their published data we can calculate that the smokers were 1.4 times more likely (RR=1.4, 95% CI: 0.98–2.00) to have severe symptoms of COVID-19 and approximately 2.4 times more likely to be admitted to an ICU, need mechanical ventilation or die compared to non-smokers (RR=2.4, 95% CI: 1.43–4.04). In conclusion, although further research is warranted as the weight of the evidence increases, with the limited available data, and although the above results are unadjusted for other factors that may impact disease progression, smoking is most likely associated with the negative progression and adverse outcomes of COVID-19. Table 1 Overview of the five studies included in the systematic review Title Setting Population Study design and time horizon Outcomes Smoking rates by outcome Zhou et al. 9 (2020)Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study Jinyintan Hospital and Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital, Wuhan, China All adult inpatients (aged ≥18 years) with laboratory confirmed COVID-19 (191 patients) Retrospective multicenter cohort study until 31 January 2020 Mortality 54 patients died during hospitalisation and 137 were discharged Current smokers: n=11 (6%)Non-survivors: n=5 (9%)Survivors: n=6 (4%)(p=0.20) Current smoker vs non-smokerUnivariate logistic regression(OR=2.23; 95% CI: 0.65–7.63; p=0.2) Zhang et al. 10 (2020)Clinical characteristics of 140 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan, China No. 7 Hospital of Wuhan, China All hospitalised patients clinically diagnosed as ‘viral pneumonia’ based on their clinical symptoms with typical changes in chest radiology (140 patients) Retrospective 16 January to 3 February 2020 Disease Severity Non-severepatients: n=82Severe patients:n=58 Disease Severity Former smokers: n=7Severe: n=4 (6.9%)Non-severe: n=3 (3.7%) (p= 0.448) Current smokers: n=2Severe: n=2 (3.4%)Non-severe: n=0 (0%) Guan et al. 12 (2019)Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China 552 hospitals in 30 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities in mainland China Patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 (1099 patients) Retrospective until 29 January 2020 Severity and admission to an ICU, the use of mechanical ventilation, or death Non-severe patients: n=926 Severe patients: n=173 By severity Severe cases16.9% current smokers5.2% former smokers77.9% never smokers Non-severe cases11.8% current smokers1.3% former smokers86.9% never smokers By mechanical ventilation, ICU or death Needed mechanical ventilation, ICU or died25.8% current smokers7.6% former smokers66.7% non-smokers No mechanical ventilation, ICU or death11.8% current smokers1.6% former smokers86.7% never smokers Huang et al. 11 (2020)Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China A hospital in Wuhan, China Laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV patients in Wuhan (41 patients) Prospective from 16 December 2019 to 2 January 2020 Mortality As of 22 January 2020, 28 (68%) of 41 patients were discharged and 6 (15%) patients died Current smokers: n=3ICU care: n=0Non-ICU care: n=3 (11%) Current smokers in ICU care vs non-ICU care patients (p=0.31) Liu et al. 13 (2019)Analysis of factors associated with disease outcomes in hospitalised patients with 2019 novel coronavirus disease Three tertiary hospitals in Wuhan, China Patients tested positive for COVID-19 (78 patients) Retrospective multicentre cohort study from 30 December 2019 to 15 January 2020 Disease progression 11 patients (14.1%) in the progression group 67 patients (85.9%) in the improvement/stabilization group 2 deaths Negative progression group: 27.3% smokersIn the improvement group: 3% smokers The negative progression group had a significantly higher proportion of patients with a history of smoking than the improvement/stabilisation group (27.3% vs 3.0%)Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that the history of smoking was a risk factor of disease progression (OR=14.28; 95% CI: 1.58–25.00; p= 0.018)
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              Alcohol use and misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: a potential public health crisis?

              In an attempt to control the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, governments across the world have implemented distancing measures during the search for medical countermeasures, resulting in millions of people being isolated for long periods. Alcohol misuse is one of the leading causes of preventable mortality, contributing annually to about 3 million deaths worldwide. 1 In some individuals, long term, excessive alcohol misuse might escalate into an alcohol use disorder. The potential public health effects of long-term isolation on alcohol use and misuse are unknown. Stress is a prominent risk factor for the onset and maintenance of alcohol misuse. For example, chronic alcohol use results in neuroadaptations in stress and reward pathways, which lead to dysfunctional hypothalamic pituitary adrenocortical and sympathetic adrenomedullary axes, characterised by dysregulation of the cortisol response and deficits in emotional regulation. 2 In turn, these neuroadaptations lead to increased cravings for alcohol in response to stress. The effects of long-term social isolation on stress levels, including increased neuroendocrine responses and stress reactivity, have been described in non-human animals. 3 However, the ongoing lockdowns across many countries are unique and little is known of the effects on the general population of chronic isolation (with respect to health and wellbeing) in these circumstances A risk factor for the onset and maintenance of alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder is trait impulsivity (ie, the tendency to take risks or act without adequate forethought or reflection). Impulsivity can moderate stress-induced consumption of alcohol 4 and is also associated with relapse in addicted individuals. 5 Thus, this period of isolation might lead to a spike in alcohol misuse, relapse, and potentially, development of alcohol use disorder in at-risk individuals, therefore placing further strain on addiction and drug and alcohol services, and the health service in general, during and after the pandemic. Most governments, including the UK Government, have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by advising the public to remain indoors, avoid unnecessary social contact, to protect themselves and health-care systems, and to save lives. We suggest that, as well as this important public health advice, governments should give public health warnings about excessive alcohol consumption during isolation to protect vulnerable individuals.

                Author and article information

                Eur Addict Res
                Eur Addict Res
                European Addiction Research
                S. Karger AG (Allschwilerstrasse 10, P.O. Box · Postfach · Case postale, CH–4009, Basel, Switzerland · Schweiz · Suisse, Phone: +41 61 306 11 11, Fax: +41 61 306 12 34, karger@karger.com )
                26 April 2021
                : 1-15
                [1] aDepartment of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany
                [2] bFeuerlein Center on Translational Addiction Medicine (FCTS), University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
                [3] cDepartment of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Paracelsus Medical University Nuremberg, Nuremberg, Germany
                [4] dDepartment of Biostatistics, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim/Heidelberg University, Mannheim, Germany
                [5] eDepartment of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany
                [6] fDepartment of Psychiatry, Social psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany
                Author notes

                Falk Kiefer and Thomas Hillemacher shared last authorship.

                Copyright © 2021 by S. Karger AG, Basel

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted re-use and analyses in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic or until permissions are revoked in writing. Upon expiration of these permissions, PMC is granted a perpetual license to make this article available via PMC and Europe PMC, consistent with existing copyright protections.

                : 24 June 2020
                : 23 February 2021
                Page count
                Tables: 6, References: 16, Pages: 15
                Research Article

                Health & Social care
                Health & Social care
                alcohol, tobacco, pandemic


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