COVID-19 and the ongoing global pandemic has been an unprecedented moment in modern history. So far, it has led to nearly one-million deaths globally, with over forty-thousand of them being in the U.K.
The pandemic changed every aspect of our lives.
The indirect effects of COVID-19 are widespread, not only creating a historically volatile stock market and leading to unprecedented unemployment rates, but also an overwhelming reduction of addiction and adult service programs worldwide (only five NHS inpatient units are currently open in England).
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the number of high-risk drinkers has nearly doubled to 8.4 million since the start of the lockdown.
Contributing factors and the roots of a growing problem
Drug and alcohol usage has skyrocketed across the world, with Australia (49%), America (46%), and Britain (44%) experiencing substantial rises in cannabis usage.
In addition to cannabis, other psychoanalytic substances have been used at a higher rate, as well as addictive legal vices like alcohol.
According to a Special Edition report by the Global Drug Survey (GDS), over 30% of respondents stated that they’ve started drinking earlier in the day since lockdown. 5% of those asked said that they’re drinking at least 10 standard-sized drinks per day.
Additionally, these usage rates tend to vary among different demographic groups. Cisgender women, for example, tend to drink 1-2 drinks per day at a higher rate than anyone else ( 61% of fell within that range).
An alarming amount of people in countries that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic have cited depression as the main reason why they’ve used drugs and alcohol at an increased rate during the lockdown.
Pre-existing mental health conditions
Pre-existing mental health conditions have also played a major role.
Among people who upper their taking, 41% cited stress and 38% cited depression (cannabis users’ figures were 20% and 15% respectively).
Unsurprisingly, respondents in countries hit particularly hard by the pandemic (such as America) were much more likely to use drugs at a more frequent rate due to depression.
One important thing to note, however, is that frequently used “party drugs” have seen a global fall in usage. Drugs such as ecstasy (41%), cocaine (38%), and ketamine (34%) have all gone down because many nightclubs and other “party drug” hotspots have been forced to close down due to the pandemic.
And while it doesn’t seem like many people are missing them right (many formerly frequent users saying their mental health has significantly improved since they’ve stopped using) the concern remains that once everything opens back up people will slip into their old habits.
According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 2.7 billion workers will be affected by COVID-19, nearly four out of every five workers. Those in the retail and wholesale sector have been hit the worse (~482 million).
These staggeringly high numbers have put us in an unprecedented global state, with future employment forecasts and recovery predictions looking less and less hopeful with each passing day.
This loss of hope and growing sentiment that things aren’t going to get better anytime soon has led to a sense of widespread desperation, and for an alarmingly high amount of people this has led to them suppressing these feelings through drugs, alcohol, and other detrimental addictions.
Isolation and loneliness
Even those that have been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunity to work from home aren’t excluded from the recent rise in addiction.
Spending large amounts of times alone, inside, and isolated is atypical for humans, and after a while, it begins to wear down even the most resolved of us.
Many people turn to alcohol or other harmful vices during these times of intense loneliness for a multitude of reasons, but the one throughline that connects them all is that it’s long-term effects could cripple their lives forever.
Another major contributor to this massive rise is the death of the weekend in the traditional workweek. People across the world like to go out and unwind after a long, hard work week, and, now that that’s no longer an option, they justify “day drinking” or other atypical behaviours because of it.
Solutions and what can be done
With the emergence of a soon-to-be widespread addiction crisis, governmental systems worldwide will be forced into action to find solutions to help get their populations back on their feet. Simply returning to life as normal won’t be possible.
Life in many countries will be fundamentally changed, and, if something isn’t done about it, this change could become their new harrowing reality.
Seeking help and governmental investment
One of the most important things a person who’s currently struggling with addiction can do is take the first step: reach out and start seeking help. While seeking help is the most obvious piece of advice you’ll ever receive, it’s also the most important.
But the individual choice to seek help for oneself is just one part of a complex solution. Unless serious investment is made by governments into counteracting these rising addiction rates, then there will inevitably be deaths and an everlasting effect on the families of those struggling with addiction.
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