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Researchers have observed that individuals dealing with sickle cell disease (SCD) experience psychological comorbidities and chronic pain. These conditions frequently correlate with substance abuse, but there has not been any substantive research into substance abuse rates among individuals dealing with SCD. This study, published in Substance Use & Misuse, explores the relationship and risk factors between SCD and substance abuse.

The study used data gathered from patients at two academic medical centers. Patients 15 and older were asked about their experiences using amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. The researchers also measured depression, pain catastrophizing, pain levels, stigma, and urban life stress. Almost 25% of the respondents reported substance use of some kind, mostly marijuana. Substance use increased with higher rates of internalized stigma, pain catastrophizing, and urban life stress. 

The researchers concluded that individuals with SCD who use drugs experience markedly more stress, higher rates of depression, and poorer quality of life. They recommend intervention methods that emphasize improving distress tolerance and coping not only for the pain but also the social and psychological difficulties that accompany SCD as a means of reducing substance abuse [1].


[1] Wilson, J. D., Lanzkron, S., Pecker, L. H., Bediako, S. M., Han, D., & Beach, M. C. (2020). Psychosocial and Clinical Risk Factors Associated with Substance Use in Observational Cohort of Patients with Sickle Cell Disease. Substance Use & Misuse, 55(13), 2205–2212. https://doi.org/10.1080/10826084.2020.1797807

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