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Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health
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Substance use During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has created disruptions in our lives that can cause feelings of stress and anxiety. These feelings are normal. However, using alcohol, cannabis, or other substances to cope with negative feelings can make you feel worse and increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder.

To avoid harms related to substance use, try other ways to cope with stress and anxiety. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has prepared an infographic summarizing ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you choose to consume alcohol or cannabis, consider monitoring your use and follow low-risk guidelines.

Alcohol

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. If you choose to drink, pay attention to why and how frequently you are doing so.

Increasing your alcohol consumption may affect your health and well-being. Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight infection.

To keep these risks at bay, try to:

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 or with the guidance of a healthcare professionally to track alcohol consumption and set goals to reduce intake to lower-risk levels.

Cannabis

It is important to know the risks of cannabis use and how they relate to COVID-19, especially if you have noticed your use increasing during this time. Cannabis does not prevent, treat, or alleviate symptoms of COVID-19. Smoking cannabis can also suppress the immune system, and negatively affect lung health. These impacts may worsen the symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses. In addition, vaping cannabis products from the illegal market has been linked to severe lung illnesses.

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.

  • Try to limit your use to once a week or less, if possible.
  • Choose low-strength products, which can reduce your risk of developing dependency or mental health problems.
  • Talk to your health care provider about cannabis use, and how it may interact with other medications.

Getting Help

If you are struggling with substance use, do not hesitate to reach out for help through the resources listed on our Getting Help page, or by visiting the links below:

Need More Information About Substance use During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

visit our pages on Mental Health and Emotional Health during COVID-19, Alcohol, Cannabis, or Opioids.

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Alerts:

1) Our offices are temporarily closed to the public to allow us to respond to COVID-19 demands. However, phone lines remain open. The COVID-19 information line is operating 7 days a week (excluding statutory holidays) from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. All other program lines are operating Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

2) Returning travellers must self-isolate for 14 days and contact Public Health if symptoms of COVID-19 develop.

If you have returned from travel anywhere outside of Canada, you must self-isolate for 14 days and immediately contact Public Health or your local health care provider if you develop symptoms of COVID-19. Earlier this month all travellers were asked to self-isolated when they returned to Canada. Effective March 25, the federal government made this isolation mandatory under the Quarantine Act to better protect our most vulnerable citizens. Each of us must make the responsible decision to follow the advice of health authorities. It’s in everyone’s best interest to do everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19.