COVID-19 and Substance Use
Over 20% of Canadians aged 18-54 report they are drinking more alcohol while at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reasons for increased alcohol consumption include feelings of stress and anxiety, loss of routine, social isolation, and having more alcohol in the home due to stockpiling.
Consuming alcohol or cannabis or both on occasion can provide temporary relief of stress and anxiety but studies show that using these substances on a regular basis can increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) or cannabis use disorder (CUD), especially when alcohol and cannabis are used to deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression, or with life challenges. Both substances also have the ability to weaken your immune system in the short and long term.
If you find yourself turning to alcohol or cannabis as a means to deal with stress, try some of the following coping strategies and see if that helps:
- Stay active and keep yourself busy with activities you enjoy.
- Stay connected with friends and family, while still practicing physical distancing.
- Find balance by staying informed but knowing when to take a break from COVID-19 news.
- Be kind to yourself. This is a difficult time and you’re doing your best to manage a challenging
- Take care of your body by eating and sleeping well, exercising and meditating.
If you choose to drink, pay attention to why and how frequently you are doing so. You can also try the following to keep your drinking in check:
Keep a daily routine
Avoid stockpiling alcohol at home
Monitor your drinking using the Saying When app
Get more tips on SHW's safe substance use page
If you have concerns about the changes in your drinking habits during the pandemic, the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse offers a self-help guide called Knowing Your Limits with Alcohol: A Practical Guide to Assessing Your Drinking. This resource can be used independently to track alcohol consumption and set goals to reduce intake to lower-risk levels.
If you choose to use cannabis, take these steps to reduce risks to your health and prevent the spread of COVID-19
Avoid sharing smoking supplies with others, to prevent the spread of illness
Wash your hands thoroughly before bringing a cannabis product to your mouth
Choose safer, not-smoking ways to use cannabis, that do not directly impact your lungs
Obtain your cannabis from legal sources
- Following Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines can also help to reduce your risk of harms.
If you are struggling with substance use, do not hesitate to reach out to book a counselling appointment with Student Health and Wellness, we are here to support you and connect you to appropriate services. You can also visit the links below:
- Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals when needed
- ConnexOntario provides free and confidential health service information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness and/or gambling via 24/7 telephone (1-866-531-2600), chat and email