Economic recessions, COVID-19, socio-determinants of drug use and its harms: deaths of despair?
Harmful socio-economic conditions that have prevailed in the COVID-19 economic recession may impact on people’s willingness to take drugs and the associated risks. In some countries, drug-related mortality has significantly increased with economic adversity, leading to the designation ‘deaths of despair’. This panel aims to discuss how economic recessions impact on the use of drugs and their harms; as well, as best public policies/programmes to implement to prevent its negative consequences. First, the panel discusses the effects of past economic recessions on the use of drugs by type of drug and harm. Topics such as the use of cannabis among young people; problem drug use and; drug-related deaths are going to be in the centre of discussions. Second, the association between socioeconomic adversity and the patterns of overdoses experienced in the European Union, United States and Scotland is analysed. Scotland is used as a case study to assess the long-term impacts and cohort effects of past economic recessions. To conclude the session, we propose an open structured debate, with the aim to identify relevant socioeconomic public policies to reduce drug harms and deaths. What have learned from past recessions and how can governments help preventing the worst impacts of adverse of socioeconomic shocks, including the effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, on drug use and its harms?