Drug use is common among people taking part in virtual raves and happy hours during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study finds.

“We explored whether stay-at-home orders changed how people use drugs — and it appears that drug use during virtual gatherings is somewhat prevalent among the party-going population we studied,” said study author Joseph Palamar. He’s associate professor of population health at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

The researchers conducted online surveys in April and May 2020 with 128 New Yorkers who said they attend electronic dance music parties and reported recent drug use.

About 56% said they had attended virtual raves and about 70% attended virtual happy hours during the pandemic. Of those, more than one-third said they had used illegal drugs during the events, including 41% of virtual rave attendees and 34% who attended virtual happy hours.

Seven out of 10 participants used alcohol, and 30% said they used marijuana during both types of events, the survey found.

Use of other drugs was less common. At virtual raves, about 9% used ecstasy, 7% used LSD and about 4% used cocaine. Slightly more than 3% of virtual happy hour attendees used cocaine and/or ketamine.

The findings suggest that virtual dance parties and nightclub events could be an opportunity for drug use outreach and education, the researchers noted in a university news release.

“Although drug use may be considered ‘safer’ in a home environment, it may also introduce different risks, such as using alone,” Palamar said. “My main concern is potential adverse social effects of using drugs on camera because this could compromise one’s career. This applies to use of weed as well, because this can still compromise one’s relationship with an employer, even in 2020.”

The study, published Aug. 26 in the International Journal of Drug Policy, was described as the first to examine drug use during virtual parties.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about drug use.