Canadians are feeling the strain during the COVID-19 pandemic. While these uncertain times are proving difficult for us all, they are presenting greater challenges and risks to people with substance use disorders or mental illness. Up to one in two individuals with an existing substance use disorder reported having moderately severe to severe symptoms of depression since March 2020, according to a new Leger poll.
These findings are from a new series of bimonthly Leger polls commissioned by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to shed light on the ongoing impact of the pandemic on Canadians’ mental health and substance use.
Around one-third of those surveyed who drink alcohol reported drinking more since the start of the pandemic. This increase was greater among respondents with a history of substance use disorders, four in 10 to almost half of whom reported increased alcohol consumption during this period.
Although substance use and mental health symptoms were high across the board, it is clear that people with a history of mental health or substance use concerns are being disproportionately impacted by stresses related to the pandemic.
Other key facts include:
- Up to one in two respondents with current mental health symptoms who use cannabis reported increased use since March 2020, compared to two in five of the general population.
- Over one in three respondents with current mental health symptoms who use alcohol reported consuming more since the start of the pandemic.
- Moderate and severe anxiety symptoms were highest among respondents with lifetime substance use disorder and lifetime mental health diagnoses.
- Respondents’ top stressors were financial strain (14%), social isolation (12%) and the health of family members (11%).
- Just 24 per cent of respondents with problematic substance use and 22 per cent with current mental health symptoms have accessed treatment since March.
It is more important than ever that Canadians have timely access to a full range of quality services and supports that meet them where they are. In response to these findings, CCSA is highlighting some of its existing resources and supports:
- Coping with Stress, Anxiety and Substance Use During COVID-19
- Virtual Care for Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19
- Knowing Your Limits with Alcohol: A Practical Guide to Assessing Your Drinking
- Cannabis Public Education Suite of Resources
- Wellness Together Canada
We encourage you to share this publication with your networks. You can download the full survey data on the MHCC website and find a comprehensive list of resources on substance use and COVID-19 in CCSA’s online resource centre.
If you have any questions about the polling project or want to know more about our work with MHCC, please email RJesseman@ccsa.ca.