The disease brought about by the SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 coronavirus has had an unprecedented global impact. Confinement to control the outbreak may have mental health consequences for many vulnerable populations, including adolescents. To address this possibility, researchers at the University of Leon, Leon, Spain conducted a study on healthy adolescents in the town of Ponferrada (León, Spain). This study focused on the relationships between the teenagers’ stress variables, Emotional Intelligence (EI) variables and the intention to use cannabis before and after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic containment stage.
Data indicated that at the end of the confinement, students were perceived to be more stressed than those before the confinement. Although the intention of cannabis use didn’t increase after confinement, all manifestations of stress were found to be predictive of cannabis use. In other words, although the teenagers experienced no change in intention of cannabis use at the time of survey, it was still possible that due to the increased stress, such ideation may increase later. Meanwhile, higher emotional intelligence appeared to be protective against cannabis consumption, as high scores in several EI components were associated with stronger resolution to abstain from cannabis.
The study also demonstrated gender differences in stress and EI among the teenagers. In particular, young women presented greater physiological and emotional manifestations of stress, as well as greater attention to feelings. Meanwhile, young men possessed better ability to understand and discriminate among feelings.
Altogether, these findings are very valuable for both drug prevention programs and substance abuse treatment interventions. For instance, education on different emotional competencies can help adolescents manage psychological stress, promote their mental health, and steer them away from substance use.