"What was the vibe you were going for?” SAM Behaviors and Socialization During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a Qualitative Approach


  • Sheila Pakdaman USC
  • Jennifer Weck
  • Melinda Longtin
  • John Clapp


Introduction: Marijuana use is at historic highs amongst college-aged adults, who are more likely to engage in simultaneous alcohol and marijuana use (SAM) than other age cohorts. For college students, the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique transitory phenomenon that led to isolation, as well as changes in socialization, academic environments, and substance use. This exploratory qualitative study aims to understand SAM socialization and motivation behaviors among college students. Methods: Semi-structured qualitative interviews (N=32) were conducted across the United States from January 2021-April 2021via Zoom. Interviews were then transcribed, then a thematic analysis was conducted in Atlas.ti. Results: The sample was primarily college juniors (mage=21). Since the pandemic, half of the participants increased SAM, whereas the other half decreased SAM. SAM was reported in different categories including primarily with friends, but, much less with partners and with roommates. More than half of the sample indicated that they used SAM alone. Motivations to engage in SAM included relaxing, socializing, offsetting stressors specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, and relieving general stress, anxiety and boredom. Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted college students’ substance use in interesting ways. Understanding the behaviors of SAM in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial due to the legalization of marijuana in many states. This understanding has significant implications for prevention strategies and potential policy interventions. Our study yielded findings regarding the impact of socialization on SAM. We discovered that not only does socialization affect SAM, but the specific contexts and motivations behind these behaviors also play a crucial role, which adds to our developing understanding of SAM behavior.