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.
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:
- Follow Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
- Keep a daily routine
- Avoid stockpiling alcohol at home
- Monitor your drinking using the Saying When app
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.
Since March, 2020, there has been a spike in overdose related calls in the Belleville area, and at least 2 overdose deaths. Please see below for information on what service providers and people who use drugs can do maintain safer substance use while also implementing COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene practices.
- Safer Drug Use During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Harm Reduction Provider Operations During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Please also be aware of The Overdose Prevention Line, which is available Monday to Friday from 10 am -10 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – midnight. Please call 1-888-853-8542 if you are about to use drugs and are located in Ontario.
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
If you are struggling with substance use, do not hesitate to reach out for help through the resources listed on our Mental and Emotional Health during COVID-19 web page, or by visiting 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