Virtual recruitment and participant engagement for substance use research during a pandemic

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2022 Jul 1;35(4):252-258. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000794. Epub 2022 Jun 9.


Purpose of review: The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic resulted in cataclysmic changes to the research enterprise, causing a forced shutdown or rapid pivot to virtual methods. Adapting studies to the virtual environment also impacted recruitment and retention strategies. This review elucidated challenges and offered pragmatic recommendations, drawing on published literature and our prior work, to assist researchers in re-evaluating and amending best-practice techniques to bolster inclusive recruitment and study engagement of people using substances, particularly for virtual interviews or focus groups.

Recent findings: Ameliorating recruitment strategies and research protocols to better fit virtual methods of recruitment and study administration required careful consideration of ethical and logistical implications. Many procedures to increase enrollment of underrepresented populations, such as building mutually beneficial and respectful community partnerships, recruiting via social media, or providing ambulatory research centers, existed prior to this specific pandemic. However, unprecedented disruptions in resources needed to participate in virtual interviews or focus groups, privacy concerns, and possible deteriorating trust in research necessitated continued adaptation and expansion of these strategies.

Summary: Building upon prepandemic, community-engaged strategies may continue to facilitate diverse recruitment efforts and advance science productivity in the substance use and addiction field during the pandemic and thereafter.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Social Media*
  • Substance-Related Disorders*