Study shows pandemic affecting Canadians’ consumption of alcohol and cannabis

Young adults draw caution from Red Cross, CCSA 

Latest results from an ongoing Pan Canadian study by the Canadian Red Cross suggest a portion of adults who use alcohol and cannabis have increased their consumption of those substances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, findings of the June segment of the study show that, among those who used alcohol in the previous 14 days, 26 per cent consumed more than during an average two-week period prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eleven per cent used less.

Among those who used cannabis during the previous month, 27 per cent reported using it more frequently than during an average month prior to the pandemic. Twelve per cent reported using it less. The result, says Leger, is a 15 per cent net gain in the consumption of both alcohol and cannabis. Included is a 23 per cent net gain in alcohol consumption among 18 to 34-year-olds – prompting cautionary words from both Red Cross and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA).

“Most young adults (66 per cent) are consuming no more – or even less – alcohol than prior to COVID-19,” says Dr. Paul Hebert, Medical and Science Advisor for the Canadian Red Cross.  “While that is encouraging, we remain concerned for those heading in the other direction, as the pandemic is often a magnifier of pre-existing vulnerabilities.”

In the three months that Red Cross has conducted its study, vulnerabilities shown to be more pronounced among young adults include sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. Nearly half have also reported feeling anxious, restless, or uneasy during the three days prior to the survey – a full 17 per cent higher than the average for all respondents.

According to CCSA, findings of the Red Cross study regarding use of alcohol among young adults during the pandemic are consistent with their own research and that of other organizations.

“Substance use during COVID-19 has not increased for the majority of young adults, but we need to be concerned for the segment that is not coping well,” says Rita Notarandrea, Chief Executive Officer of CCSA.  “This appears to be related to stress, anxiety, loneliness, boredom and a lack of regular routine – but more research and analysis is needed in this area.”

As the pandemic continues, Notarandrea encourages Canadians to explore positive ways of coping with COVID-19, and to keep health risks from alcohol low by using alcohol within Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.

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