More than three billion people around the world are currently in lockdown, and experts are concerned that there is a very real chance that a wave of people seeking help for addiction could follow, leading to a second health crisis.
Whilst this possibility is not yet a given, Philippe Batel, psychiatrist and head of the Charente Addiction Centre in southwestern France says: “The links between traumatic stress and drug use are well-established,
“People respond in the usual ways, such as painkillers, alcohol and recreational drugs.”
In response to worrying figures from global analytics company Nielsen, revealing that sales of alcohol have increased 291% during the lockdown, a study from the University of Portsmouth aims to get an understanding of the scale of the problem. A university spokesperson said: “The outcome of the lockdown is unknown but, according to researchers, increased alcohol use could give rise to a second health crisis.”
The study asks respondents about their drinking habits during the lockdown, with participants reporting their alcohol use, stress and boredom levels on a weekly basis. Results of this could help to make sense of why people are buying so much more alcohol during this time.
Dr Matt Parker, speaking to the Metro, said: “The potential public health effects of long-term isolation on alcohol use and misuse are unknown. Alcohol misuse is one of the leading causes of preventable mortality, contributing annually to about three million deaths worldwide.
“This period of isolation might lead to a spike in alcohol misuse and, potentially, development of addiction in at-risk individuals or relapse in recovered addicted patients, therefore placing further strain on drug and alcohol services, and the health service in general, during and after the pandemic.”
Dr Parker related the extraordinary nature of the current situation, and how it is this that makes it so hard to predict what is likely to happen. He says: “It is unprecedented to have so many millions of people across the world effectively locked away from their jobs, friends and families. How people cope with this is varied, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of people responding by drinking more alcohol worldwide.”
Elsa Taschini, psychologist and co-founder of the association Addict’Elles, believes that the nature of the pandemic, which causes untold stress and anxiety, could lead to those not already suffering from addiction to fall into dangerous habits: “In a confined situation, most of the strategies for coping with stress, such as sport or going out, no longer exist. But there is more and more stress. And the coping strategy that is still available is the use of substances,” she said.
Lockdown Could Trigger Various Types Of Addiction
Whilst many are concerned about people turning to alcohol, the fact is that people use lots of different things to cope with stress, meaning that addiction could become a problem in areas that you might not expect.
Smoking is a big concern for doctors, as people have more opportunity to smoke away from work and routine, whilst the potential for overdose in people already hooked on drugs is higher if they have stockpiled their drug of choice, concerned about future supply. But one of the more unlikely causes of addiction is also a concern to doctors – exercise.
Exercise is being promoted as an important activity during lockdown, helping to increase health and thus immunity, and fostering better mental health. Although gyms have been closed and group exercise classes cancelled, research from WAU has found that one in three people are exercising more in lockdown than they were before, with running and cycling listed as the top ways that people enjoy keeping fit.
However, a focus on staying active and healthy can lead to obsessive behaviours, and with little else to do there is a concern that people will overdo it, or that it will set new exercise and eating disorders in motion. For those already prone to body image disorders, the focus across social media and television on keeping fit can be triggering, and the sedentary nature of staying home may cause people to struggle.
The signs of exercise addiction include:
- Exercising in secret
- Obsessing over your body shape and size
- Exercising when it is causing you harm (such as after injury)
- Obsessing over exercise
Speaking to the Metro, ParvinderSagoo, clinical adviser at SimplyMeds, says: “Exercise addiction is complex and tricky and can affect any person at any point in their life. It can go hand-in-hand with an eating disorder, or can be experienced on its own.
“It’s very important to do some sort of physical activity, especially during lockdown, however it could be taken to extremes – especially while people don’t have other things to focus on.
“The pressure to exercise seems to be all around at the moment, predominantly from online personal trainers and fitness gurus via social media. There are so many different workouts being shared online and people doing as much as one or two hours of high impact exercise every day – this type of pressure could have detrimental effects to a person’s mental and physical health.”
When it comes to all types of addiction and substance abuse, the way that you tackle it might be personal to you. Whilst some countries have taken drastic measures to avoid alcohol abuse – South Africa banning sales of alcohol during lockdown, and Hong Kong telling restaurants and bars to stop serving it – there are no such rules in the UK.
Those struggling with substance addictions may put themselves in harm’s way in order to get hold of drugs, whilst smokers and exercise addicts are expected to monitor and help themselves.
Luckily, Cassiobury Court is still available to those suffering from any type of addiction, to help you to navigate these issues throughout lockdown and beyond. We are monitoring the situation carefully and have put measures in place to ensure the comfort and safety of all of our clients, and are ready to help immediately if you feel that you need support.
Call us on 0800 001 4070, or text HELP To 83222 and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.