Polysubstance use in a community sample of Black cisgender sexual minority men and transgender women in Chicago during initial COVID-19 pandemic peak

Moody, Raymond L.; Chen, Yen-Tyng; Schneider, John A.; Knox, Justin; Timmins, Liadh; Hanson, Hillary; Koli, Kangkana; Durrell, Mainza; Dehlin, Jessica; Eavou, Rebecca; Martins, Silvia S.; Duncan, Dustin T.

In response to COVID-19, the city of Chicago issued stay-at-home orders, which began on March 20, 2020, and restrictions meant to “flatten the curve” remained in effect until June 2, 2020. On June 3, 2020, Chicago entered the reopening phase. This study compares rates of polysubstance use by COVID-19 lockdown phase and across sociodemographic characteristics in a Chicago-based sample of Black cisgender sexual minority men (SMM) and transgender women.

Data come from the Neighborhood and Networks (N2) cohort, an ongoing study of Black cisgender SMM and transgender women living in Chicago. Participants (N = 226) completed a survey between April 20, 2020, and July 30, 2020, during the initial peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago. We conducted chi-square tests of independence and modified Poisson regression models with robust error variance and estimated adjusted prevalence ratios.

Alcohol and marijuana were the most used substances, with 73.5% reporting at least one drinking day and 71.2% of the sample reporting marijuana use in the past 14 days. Tobacco was used by 41.6% of the sample, and illegal drug use, which does not include marijuana, was reported by 17.7% of the sample. Substance use was consistently associated with the use of other substances. As such, polysubstance use (i.e., using two or more substances) was common in this sample (63.7%). Few sociodemographic differences emerged, and substance use was not associated with lockdown phase.

Substance use, including polysubstance use, was high in our sample of Black SMM and transgender women during the initial peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Continued monitoring is needed given the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the negative health consequences associated with substance use in this population.


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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy

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August 10, 2022


COVID-19, Polysubstance use, Black, Sexual minority men, Transgender women