Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated social restrictions have profoundly shaped the routines, practices and space-times of alcohol and other drug (AOD) consumption. As a part of these transformations, video conferencing services (e.g. Zoom, Whereby) have emerged as popular mediums for socialising and AOD consumption. In this article, we adopt a more-than-human theoretical framework to explore how these online contexts re-shape experiences of AOD consumption. Methods: Data were gathered using a case-study approach, guided by principles of digital ethnography. We ‘staged’ the online gatherings of three established friendship clusters of adults in Melbourne, Australia, and drew on a discussion guide to elicit accounts of past online AOD encounters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our thematic analysis was sensitised to the dynamic composition of these encounters and the kinds of relations, practices and affects they enabled and constrained. Results: Composed via video conferencing services, AOD consumption afforded distinct pleasures, including enhanced sociality, excitement and momentary reprieves from isolation. Importantly, these effects were not uniform or stable. Participants also navigated various constraints of online AOD consumption while establishing for themselves what substances and associated practices ‘fit’ within these novel encounters. Discussion and Conclusions: Our study conveys the importance of digitally-mediated AOD consumption as a site of socialising and pleasure. In so doing, it demonstrates the ways in which AOD consumption was drawn on in the everyday negotiation of health and wellbeing under lockdown conditions. We call for research and policy approaches that are sensitive to the affirmative potentials of digitally=mediated AOD encounters.
- alcohol and other drug
- video conferencing service