Alcohol use and related problems are rising in Canada as people attempt to self-medicate with alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety and uncertainty or to deal with boredom during the ongoing public health crisis. This is a troubling trend that could lead to rising numbers of mental health problems, including alcohol use disorder.

According to a study conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, seven out of ten Canadians were staying at home more. Out of them, two in ten report increased alcohol use.

Dr. Seonaid Nolan, a clinician researcher with the British Colombia Centre on Substance Use says the reasons for increased alcohol use are different between men and women. Women were reporting stress as the predominant reason for increasing alcohol consumption while men were citing boredom.

Kuldip Gill, a registered clinical counsellor has observed a trend in her patients where people are describing a pattern of using more alcohol. She believes the disruption to normal life, routines and socializing and the stress related to the pandemic could be contributing reasons for people to resort to alcohol use as a coping mechanism.

Some parents are specifically facing a difficult time during the pandemic with full-time childcare as well as working from home. This is a fact that Big Alcohol is exploiting by targeting parents through promoting alcohol as a “coping tool” to manage the added stressors during the pandemic.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised against using alcohol to cope with the pandemic and related stressors. The WHO has also released psychosocial guidance on healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the ongoing crisis.

The increase in alcohol use in Canada is leading to rising mental health problems. According to a Nanos Research survey of 1003 Canadians, 16% reported their mental health worsened and 24% reported mental health is somewhat worsened.

Those who are in recovery are facing challenges during the pandemic as access to help has largely moved to the digital space. While this is better than not having help at all, not everyone can access digital platforms. Taking the first step can be harder when it is online instead of a physical meeting. Connection is one of the key aspects of recovery and isolation and physical distancing disrupts this crucial step in recovery.

Movendi International has previously published stories about the challenges for addiction and recovery during the ongoing pandemic. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has emphasized the importance of continuous access to addiction treatment, recovery and care and released a set of suggestions to governments on providing necessary services during the pandemic.

The weakening of alcohol policy across Canada during the ongoing public health crisis has only made matters worse. In Canada alcohol is regulated provincially and not nationally. During the pandemic many provinces weakened their alcohol policies, including by granting alcohol essential status and increasing the availability and affordability of alcohol.

Read more on the Science Digest

The Movendi International Science Digest provides a range of scientific articles which explore the effects of increased alcohol use during the ongoing pandemic. Selected articles are highlighted below.

Variables Associated With Shifts in Alcohol Consumption During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Alcohol and COVID-19: How Do We Respond to This Growing Public Health Crisis?

Problems in Coping by Using Alcohol during COVID-19

Source Website: CBC