With the stay at home order, social isolation, prolonged stress and employment loss- it is no surprise that substance use may be more prevalent during this time. We’ll cover some of the data that was collected by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) in the earlier months of the pandemic. The CCSA asked over 1000 respondents during April of 2020, about their alcohol and cannabis use habits/rates.
Rates of, and demographics of use:
- Use has stayed relatively stable during this period.
- Around 70% of respondents shared that their consumption hasn’t changed.
- Approximately 15% of those surveyed noted that their drinking habits decreased since the pandemic.
- The remaining 15% mentioned that they had started to drink more, and more often.
- 18-24 year olds, and 35-54 year olds were the demographics with higher rates of alcohol use since the start of the pandemic.
- Rates have remained nearly identical to that of the start of the pandemic.
- 9/10 stating that their use has remained stable.
- Although among 18-24 year olds it is more common for cannabis use to increase.
This table was taken from the CCSA slide show and it shows an interesting result. Canadians in general (outside of this survey), had said they presumed more people increased their alcohol use since the pandemic- meanwhile, the results using the data that respondents had provided, show that most (70%) respondents have had the same/stable drinking habits.
Reasons for these changes
Individuals who noted a decrease in alcohol use listed one of the following:
- Reducing intake in order to support and improve their immune system, as they were/are concerned about contracting COVID-19.
- Less socializing, so fewer opportunities and events to drink at.
- Women noted they were too busy to drink alcohol during this time.
- For those who experienced an increase in alcohol use, it was due to:
- Lack of structure/schedule that encouraged people to drink more often than usual
- More socializing!
- Perhaps more social events and zoom calls that had drinking as a more central part to the event
- Women noted that stress had them drinking more
- Meanwhile men had stated that boredom was their driving factor.
- Feeling lonely and experiencing negative emotions also encouraged an increase in alcohol use.
- Women noted that stress had them drinking more
This table demonstrates the increases and decreases among men, women and the population within alcohol use, number of drinks, cannabis use and gambling in April. Gambling has significantly reduced, while drinking and cannabis use has gone up among some cohorts and remained stable, or the same, in others.
The more respondents socialized during the pandemic, the more drinking they noted. Socializing and drinking tend to go hand in hand in this case.
This graph shows the direct relationship between feeling negative emotions (sadness, loneliness, boredom, etc) & an increase in substance use.
Alcohol Intoxication Hospitalization Rates in 2017-2019 in Sherbrooke, QC and 2020 Compared:
- The averages collected in Sherbrooke hospital between 2017-2019 in three months:
- March: 43 adult hospitalizations, and youth: 12.
- April: 44 adult hospitalizations, and youth: 13.
- May: 44, youth: 9.
- In 2020, the number of acute hospitalizations of alcohol intoxication were:
- March: 41, youth: 7.
- April: 18, youth: < 5.
- May: 30 , youth: < 5.
- Reasons for reduced acute alcohol intoxication related hospitalizations:
- Fewer parties, so people may not be drinking in such excess.
- Leaving the house less often, so acquiring alcohol less often, or purchasing less alcohol when people do leave their homes.
- Fear of catching COVID-19 at the hospital, so not going to urgent care as often.
All info from: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
Alcohol & cannabis harm reduction during COVID-19:
- Keep your social bubble small, to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Have your own glasses/cups when drinking, and use your own pipes/bongs if you smoke cannabis to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Take care of yourself to the best of your abilities; get rest, drink water, take supplements if you are deficient or nearing a deficiency and lastly, try and take tolerance breaks between when you drink alcohol to avoid becoming dependent!
- Keep communication and conversations open about how you’re feeling and your boundaries surrounding COVID-19 and socializing.
- Some things in harm reduction are common tips, for example, if you’re using other drugs:
- Get your drugs tested at a testing facility (Parkdale Queen West Community HealthCenters (PQWCHC) do this! Among some other health center locations!)
- Carry naloxone (https://www.ontario.ca/page/where-get-free-naloxone-kit)
- Use your own straw or pipe when snorting and smoking,
- Use your own new syringes and injection supplies when injecting
- Carry condoms with you and practice safer sex,
- and get tested for Hepatitis C, STIs and HIV if you suspect an exposure (PQWCHC also does anonymous HIV testing! <3)
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