In times of national crisis, the prevalence of stress- and alcohol- related disorders increases substantially. In particular, risky drinkers with high levels of stress tend to have lasting binge drinking habits even after the crisis is resolved, highlighting the importance of timely interventions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in mental health symptoms including emotional distress and alcohol/substance misuse, presenting unprecedented public health challenges. Immediate clinical interventions are exigent to reach out to vulnerable individuals in high-risk areas to evaluate and treat those at risk for alcohol- and stress- related disorders. However, the infectious nature of the pandemic is a significant obstacle to these efforts. Digital interventions have emerged as an effective tool to overcome this difficulty by allowing access to those residing in high-risk zones stricken with COVID-19. In response to NOT-AA-20-011/PA-18-591 requesting the investigation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol misuse, this project aims to study the influence of COVID-19 related stress on increasing risk of alcohol misuse and relapse after digital interventions. This project proposes a 1-year digital intervention study using a prospective clinical outcome design with two demographically-matched groups of risky drinkers (total N=40; equal gender ratio) with high versus low COVID-19 related stress. We will utilize a digital intervention method that combines telehealth- and smartphone app- based interventions, allowing concurrent treatment and daily monitoring in a real-life setting. All participants will receive a 4-week telehealth intervention after which they will be prospectively followed for 30 days to monitor stress, alcohol use, social functioning, and other health-related behaviors via a smartphone app.
A Specific Aim i s to assess the impact of COVID-19 related stress on increasing risk of alcohol misuse and relapse after digital interventions during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project will also examine the impact of COVID-19 related social isolation on alcohol misuse and relapse. If successful, the proposed research has the potential to make a difference in clinical care by (1) establishing digital healthcare protocols for individuals at risk of alcohol use disorders; (2) providing timely telehealth access for those who suffer from stress-related drinking in times of national crisis; and (3) identifying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on stress, emotion, and social interactions and risk of alcohol misuse and relapse to prevent future risky drinking associated with traumatic events.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of stress- and alcohol- related disorders, presenting a host of unusual public health challenges. Digital healthcare interventions have emerged as an effective tool to reach out to risky drinkers by allowing access to those residing in high-risk areas stricken with COVID-19. This project aims to study the impact of COVID-19 related stress on increasing risk of alcohol misuse and relapse after digital interventions during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.