The Queensland Mental Health Commissioner has highlighted that people who experience problems with alcohol and other drugs could face specific risks and challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down rolls on – but help and support is available.
Commissioner Ivan Frkovic said extraordinary situations could lead to a range of reactions and responses.
“Many people may turn to alcohol or other drugs in times of high stress,” he said.
“People who are otherwise well may find some of their coping mechanisms change, and this could include drinking more alcohol than usual.
“My concern is that problematic consumption may increase as people continue to be isolated in their own homes, feeling anxious, and often without jobs or any certainty about the future.
“And it’s clear the effects of the pandemic will reverberate through our communities likely for many months to come so adopting strategies that help people sustain their health and wellbeing, including mental health and low risk use of substances, are very important.”
The Commission has worked with stakeholders to develop an information and resources factsheet (https://www.qmhc.qld.gov.au/media-events/news/alcohol-and-other-drugs-and-covid-19) to support Queenslanders with advice on where to seek information and help about their own or someone else’s alcohol and drug issues.
“It’s important for people who use alcohol and other drugs to understand the potential impacts of more risky or problematic use at this time and how to reduce these risks and any harms from occurring to themselves or their loved ones,” Mr Frkovic said
He said that there are people who may be more vulnerable to harms from alcohol and other drug misuse and this can be compounded by the stigma surrounding drugs could prevent people from seeking help.
“Support is available, but people need to know where they can access it.
“Our factsheet promotes the free 24-hour Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS), which is an excellent first-port-of-call.
“Those needing support need to know they can access professional help and advice without being judged.”
Mr Frkovic said transport restrictions and other factors would affect the global supply chain for illicit drugs, which could result in increased risk through changes in patterns of drug use.
“People may look to alternative supply routes such as the online illicit drug market, or switch to using different substances than they usually would,” he said.
“Some people quarantined in hotels or other facilities may also be at risk of alcohol and other drugs problems associated with supply and/or experiences of withdrawal.”
Mr Frkovic said the pandemic raised a serious need to support the wellbeing of the workforce that continues to provide services in response to alcohol and other drug use.
“That workforce is striving to ensure service continuity while maintaining infection control measures such as physical distancing.
“This is a difficult period for everyone, and it’s important we seek help when we need it,” Mr Frkovic said.
The Queensland Mental Health Commission’s alcohol and other drugs factsheet includes details of organisations providing professional and self-help guidance, and resources for the entire community, including families and young people.
It is part of a broader suite of COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing information at https://info.qmhc.qld.gov.au/covid19-and-mental-health.
Queenslanders with concerns about the way they or their loved ones are using alcohol and other drugs should contact the free, confidential, 24/7 Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 177 833 or visit www.adis.health.qld.gov.au or consider other organisations on the factsheet.
QMHC Media contact: Carolyn Varley 0477 385 121.