Addictions on the rise in the age of COVID-19

The current global situation has shown anyone can become impacted mentally and turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

The pandemic has led to an increase in drug-related overdose, substance abuse, and countless mental health issues. Those who are struggling with addiction were not able to access help easily during lockdowns.

Now provinces are re-opening, where is the focus going to be placed to help current drug users and a new wave of substance abuse issues? Everyone has been affected by this, and unfortunately, many Canadians began to drink more or use drugs to cope.

How do local treatment resources, municipal and provincial governments now help even more Canadians struggling with addiction and mental health issues?

The Angus Reid Institute released new data showing 50 per cent of Canadians reported a worsening of their mental health, and 10 per cent said it had worsened a lot. Also, 44 per cent of Canadians felt worried, 41 per cent said they were anxious, and 30 per cent said they were bored.

One of the reasons Canadians were drinking more is because of boredom, per a Nanos poll summary report regarding COVID-19, and increased alcohol consumption. Struggling with poor mental wellbeing, financial troubles, and fear of a pandemic is a perfect storm for substance abuse.

Provinces are opening back up, and things are not going back to the way they were, or at least not for a while. Canadians will continue to cope and deal with on-going stress, and there will be more substance use disorders created along the way. Local communities across the country have taken extra steps putting measures in place, encouraging Canadians to reach out if they are struggling, and providing resources – but will this be enough?

COVID-19 has placed a strain on how addiction is treated in Canada. Most provinces ramped up their harm reduction efforts, not necessarily considering what happens next, but rather a temporary solution.

No precise modeling has been done to predict the long-term impact on our mental wellbeing.

Yet, the indicators are there. More Canadians will struggle with addiction or a substance use problem due to the pandemic. Now is the time to focus on permanent or long-lasting treatment solutions. Anyone struggling with addiction now is at an increased risk of contracting the virus.

Focus on increasing the number of treatment beds, counseling programs, and aftercare support – keeping people off drugs and sober with efforts made to improve their health. COVID-19 is one more reason to become completely drug-free, focusing on healthy long-term sobriety.

Marcel Gemme