Is the UK Struggling with an Addiction Pandemic?
Rising reports of alcohol use and increases in substance use disorders have been attributed to the COVID pandemic in the UK. Many specialists are now concerned about the worrying signs of a UK addiction pandemic.
Not only have families spoken out about the stress COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have placed on their loved ones, but many people have struggled to find help to cope with their fears, mental health and dependence challenges during the lockdown.
With more reports of heavy drinking, relapses, and substance use rising in the UK since April 2021, when the lockdowns started, the biggest question is whether the UK is currently struggling with an addiction pandemic? Can the ones suffering find adequate addiction detox and rehabilitation on time?
Mental Health and the Impact of the Pandemic
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of adults. At least 1 in 6 British citizens report mental health problems such as depression and anxiety with panic attacks happening at least once a week. With the added stress and pressure of the lockdown, the statistics have worsened.
As infection rates increased and lockdowns were implemented in the UK in the last few months, reports showed a 57% rise in anxiety and more than 60% increase in depression. While mental health issues decreased when lockdowns were lifted, mental health experts have warned that problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress are set to rise with high infection rates during the winter months.
Along with mental health challenges comes the issue of substance abuse and alcohol addiction. As more people experience stress, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, there have also been ongoing reports of drug and alcohol addiction.
There is no doubt that mental health challenges worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and lockdowns have a detrimental impact on staying sober and avoiding the complications of relapse.
Addiction Rates Soar During the Pandemic
A survey conducted by Adfam indicated that more than 80% of families have been trying to assist loved ones with mental health problems and addiction since the first lockdown. There has also been a significant increase in the number of people seeking treatment for substance abuse and alcoholism compared to the previous year.
The statistics show that lockdown and isolation have contributed to high rates of substance abuse, alcohol addiction, and relapse.
The impact of the pandemic has also been felt in the medical sector. Doctors and essential staff are under immense pressure and unable to receive the mental health support that they need during this challenging time because of restrictions. Frontline workers have also suffered from mental health difficulties and trauma placing them at risk of burnout and dependence on prescription medication, illicit drugs, and alcohol use.
Because more people cannot cope with isolation, job losses, and the uncertainty of the pandemic, mental health problems have been exacerbated and increased the risk of substance use and dependence.
Even those seeking support from their GP are increasingly prone to addiction to prescribed medications.
For those working on their sobriety, the challenges of isolation have caused chronic stress which has led to relapse in some.
The association between the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic and the high rates of drug use and alcohol addiction in the UK cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the lack of available support and lengthy waiting lists for treatment have made it harder for individuals to receive the help that they need. As numbers continue to soar with little reprieve in sight, more needs to be done to address the rise in addiction rates.
The Problems with the Addiction Pandemic
The addiction pandemic in the UK continues. While COVID-19 might be with us for some time, the effects of drug and alcohol addiction can be a lifelong struggle. Apart from the immediate impact on mental and emotional health, families are also affected by addiction. Higher incidences of domestic violence, the strain on treatment centres, and hospitalisations associated with drug and alcohol use are set to continue amidst the lockdowns.
Recent studies and surveys concerning addiction and the pandemic have shown that the lockdown is one of the major causes for changes in substance use and high incidences of relapse. The experience of isolation increased depression, anxiety, and stress making it difficult to cope with change, financial concerns, and chronic stress.
The restricted movement made it easier for people to hide their drinking habits or substance use in their homes. The isolation prevented loved ones from visiting those using alcohol or drugs, making it easier to conceal harmful practices for extended periods. Being isolated from friends, family, and social connections has increased alcohol dependence as more people cope with mental distress.
Support groups and charities have been affected by the pandemic’s restriction measures. The number of people able to attend group meetings is limited, making it impossible for all individuals to receive assistance. Other support groups have either permanently closed their doors or cannot keep up with the professional staff needed to assist those who need help.
Overcoming Addiction in the UK
To address drug and alcohol addiction in the UK, community and support programmes need to be more accessible to individuals battling addiction. While charitable organisations have focused on incorporating technology through virtual assistance and telephonic support, it is not enough to reach individuals and families without access to these services.
Community efforts and awareness campaigns have focused on the COVID-19 pandemic but not on the mental health struggles, addiction, and relapse rates that continue to increase across the UK. Impending lockdowns could leave many unable to cope, increasing the risk of relapse and continued reliance on alcohol or drugs.
The easing of lockdown has restored many freedoms. For those living with addiction, it also offers the hope of sobriety, the chance to find the help they need, and greater awareness concerning the risks of alcohol and drug dependence.
The journey to overcoming addiction is challenging, but with the support of loved ones and the right treatment, it can make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and their families.