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Rate of Addiction in 2020 vs 2019 Due to COVID-19

The past couple of years has been exceptionally challenging for most people due to the unique obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless people were forced into isolation, battling depression while longing for the company of friends and family, worried that they would be desperately out of a job in a matter of time due to the economic shutdown seen worldwide.

So how have these issues affected people’s alcohol and drug consumption? Let’s take a look into some of the most notable impacts of COVID-19 on substance addiction.

Alcohol and Cannabis Use in the Pandemic Era

The latest online poll conducted by Nanos, commissioned by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), offers valuable insight into how the continuing pandemic has affected people’s alcohol and cannabis consumption.

Alcohol was, and still is, the most common drug used by Canadians. Approximately 15% of Canadians who drink alcohol consume above Canada’s Low-risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.

Here are some of the survey’s key findings on alcohol consumption:

  • Seventy percent of the population said their alcohol consumption remained the same, 18% said it increased, and 12% said it decreased.
  • Twenty-five percent of Canadians under the age of 54 have increased alcohol consumption since the beginning of social distancing and self-isolation due to COVID-19.
  • Women are drinking more than men. Female drinkers report 2.4 alcoholic drinks per occasion — which is above the low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines — and 12% say they’re consuming alcohol in excess.
  • Eight percent revealed that they had not been able to stop once they started consuming alcohol on at least one occasion.
  • Although problematic alcohol consumption is rare, 1 in 7 said they felt remorse after.

a masked woman looks at a framed picture longingly

On the other hand, cannabis or marijuana is a plant-derived psychoactive substance legally available in Canada. Based on the Nanos poll:

  • Sixteen percent of Canadians consumed cannabis at least once in the previous 30 days.
  • More than 34% of Canadians who have previously consumed cannabis said their consumption had increased, compared with the pre-pandemic period, while 12% reported a decrease.
  • Among young respondents (15 to 29) who had previously consumed cannabis, 43% reported increasing their consumption during the pandemic.
  • By comparison, 20% of respondents aged 50 to 64 and 22% of those aged 65 or older reported a consumption increase.
  • Although the majority (54%) of people who had previously consumed cannabis did not increase their consumption during the pandemic, many of them continued to consume cannabis most days of the week.
  • Among those whose consumption had not changed, 25% had consumed cannabis five or more days per week in the previous 30 days, compared with 35% of those whose consumption had increased.

Contributing Factors to Increased Substance Use During the Pandemic

Based on the Nanos survey and CCSA’s COVID-19, Alcohol and Cannabis Use, most Canadians’ alcohol and cannabis use were heavily influenced by the following factors:

  • High levels of stress and anxiety – The ongoing pandemic has made most people constantly worried over their own and their loved ones’ health and safety. They turned to alcohol and cannabis as coping mechanisms, which, unfortunately, when done regularly, heightens the risk of developing substance use disorders or addiction. Individuals with a history/undiagnosed case of mental health disorder or existing substance use issues have the highest chance of forming an addiction.
  • Having more time at their disposal – Due to the mandatory lockdowns in March 2020, roughly one million Canadians were suddenly unemployed. Because of this, a significant increase in cannabis use was seen among Ontarians, those in younger age groups, individuals with lower educational levels, and those who said they were concerned about their finances.
  • Shopping habits and availability of substances – Globally, most people’s shopping habits have dramatically changed during the pandemic. While the government kept liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries open, many Canadians feared running out of supplies and stockpiled them.

Woman who can’t sleep due to anxiety.

Higher Incidence of Substance-Related Hospital Care 

Among the most significant impacts of COVID-19 on substance addiction is the rise in emergency room visits and hospitalizations in 2020 vs. 2019, as found in the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s report entitled, “Unintended Consequences of COVID-19: Impact on Harms Caused by Substance Use.”

According to the report, a substantial increase was observed in both emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations for the use of opioids, central nervous system stimulants (except cocaine), and cannabis for March to September 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. The number of hospitalizations for alcohol-related harms also increased, though ED visits decreased.

The analysis looked into three types of harm caused by all types of substances:

  • Substance use disorders – SUD accounted for most emergency room visits and hospitalization. This includes a wide range of mental health disorders that vary in severity and clinical form (e.g., withdrawal state, dependence syndrome, intoxication) related to abuse of drugs that may or may not have been medically prescribed.
  • Poisoning – This refers to the wrongful use of substances, including taking an incorrect drug or dosage, mixing prescription drugs without a doctor’s advice, or taking drugs while drinking alcohol—for example, a person in the intensive care unit due to opioid overdose.
  • Chronic medical conditions related to alcohol use – For example, a person suffering from liver cirrhosis due to alcoholism.

Chances are, most people struggled with delays and limited access to public or private addiction treatment facilities and harm reduction services due to COVID-related closures and restrictions at clinic and in-patient facilities.

How to Overcome the Impacts of COVID-19 on Substance Addiction 

Whether it’s early intervention to prevent substance use from getting worse or a continuing care program to avoid relapse triggers, Freedom From Addiction has got you covered.

We are a private addiction recovery home based in the beautiful Aurora-King City area, just north of Toronto. We follow a client-centred and evidence-based addiction treatment program implemented by our exceptional team of addiction counsellors, therapists, and medical professionals.

For more information about how we can make a difference in the impacts of COVID-19 on substance addiction, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A member of our team will get back to you shortly. Contact us today!


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