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The novel coronavirus pandemic 2019 (COVID-19) is posing new critical challenges in many areas of mental health, especially among the most vulnerable. Two major lifestyle conditions are now shared by a relevant percentage of people worldwide:

1) widespread social alarm, with an overall increase of ...

The novel coronavirus pandemic 2019 (COVID-19) is posing new critical challenges in many areas of mental health, especially among the most vulnerable. Two major lifestyle conditions are now shared by a relevant percentage of people worldwide:

1) widespread social alarm, with an overall increase of anxiety states, somatic concerns, and mood sensitivity;
2) long-lasting physical distancing due to both the response to public health protection rules and also voluntary conduct.

The interaction of such conditions sharply increases the risk of inducing or reinforcing some features of conduct disorders, such as drug or behavioral addictions. To go in-depth into the psychosocial meaning of these conducts is quite timely and potentially urgent from a clinical point of view, due to their former worldwide diffusion and to the present situation. Risk is represented by the possibility that addictive conduct born or reinforced in a long-lasting self-distancing condition may grow over time and root themselves also in a future normalized situation. Also the risk of new forms of addiction-related psychopathology behaviors needs to be taken in due account.

Potential topics of this Research Topic include, but are not limited to:

a) use/abuse of anti-anxiety/sedative drugs, both taken under medical prescription or autonomously and at increased dosages. These may include common anxiolytic drugs, like benzodiazepines or more potent and illicit agents like cannabinoids, opioids, etc. The long-lasting emotional situation and the difficulties or refusal to receive medical advice may lead to uncontrolled and potentially addictive consumption;

b) use/abuse of psychostimulant drugs to counteract the worry and frustration resulting from the ban of direct social relationships. Cocaine and several types of other agents with immediate euphoric effect may be used, differently from classic antidepressants for their too long time of action, with an elevated risk of addiction; also use of novel psychoactive substances bought on the web and darknet must be carefully considered;

c) other types of changes in addiction: i.e. diminution of drug use in recreational settings, diminution of social substance use, lack of access to drugs, change in the drug market leading to a diminution in substance use, or leading to withdrawal-related problems/change in the kind of substance used.

d) increased time spent in anxious/compulsive research of news about the pandemic, the need to be continuously informed about its course, and about possible conduct rules to reduce risk of contagion or inform an early detection of it, cyberchondria, etc. Addictive use of television, mobiles and other possible tools to get updated information might also be associated with this;

e) increased time spent using the Internet, with very frequent development of mild to severe forms of addiction. This may include a compulsive need to be in touch with other people, increased/addicted use of social media, groups, etc., the need to be connected all the time or an anxiety reaction when not online, etc. The initial desire for sharing information, counteracting the experience of isolation and seeking reassurance may turn into a real addictive behavior seeking continuous online contacts;

f) increase/onset of specific Internet-use profiles with high addictive risk. Online shopping may be to some extent a practical need due to the ban on leaving home, but it may easily overstep the limit of necessity and engage in compulsory conduct. On line gaming may start from a desire to pass the time and grow up to addictive conduct; in general, most common forms of internet use may become problematic in distressed self-distancing conditions;

g) increased time of physical exercise at home with compulsive features, in people with a previous profile of exercise addiction and also the lack of access to a specific sports addiction;

h) challenges and modifications faced by the healthcare system in delivering treatment for people with substance use disorder in the epidemic context and changes in accessing social support;

The current pandemic is an unexpected and complex phenomenon, which is causing distress to millions of individuals worldwide. In this context of emergency, we strongly encourage colleagues to submit their timely contributions in order to enhance our knowledge on how substantial changes in life-styles and “physical distancing” are influencing former or new psychopathology conditions concerning addictive behaviors and related psychopathologies.

***Due to the exceptional nature of the COVID-19 situation, Frontiers is waiving all article publishing charges for COVID-19 related research until December 31st, 2020.***

Keywords: COVID-19, Drug Addiction, Social Distancing, Behavioral Addiction

Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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