Addiction is not an isolated social problem, it is affected by everything that affects us as a community. The world went through a number of crises during the past 36 months, including a global pandemic with hundreds of thousands of victims, not to mention the affected relatives. It’s 2022, two years after the initial lockdown was first instilled. And now, we are faced with yet another stress factor – Russia’s armed forces invaded Ukraine, a former Soviet State, and currently a sovereign country.
How the Pandemic Affected Addiction Rates
Addiction rates rose during the pandemic with alcohol consumption growing at 3%. This growth in addiction came from the rise in unemployment which caused people to drink more to cope with their situation. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) also saw its numbers increase, with over 1 million members across the US alone.
In addition to rising unemployment rates, other factors were responsible for increasing addiction rates. The cost of living has risen dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. Food prices have increased by 25% while electricity costs have skyrocketed by 50%. The government has been forced to step in and provide subsidies to offset these rising costs. Although this helped some families, others had no choice but to turn to drugs or alcohol.
With no need to go to bars, pubs and night clubs to drink, without the added charges in all these places, drinking became easier, and chapter than before. People began drinking more and more often, leading to increased alcohol-related problems.
The cost of living also led to high levels of debt. With the economy tanking, many households found themselves unable to pay off their mortgages and even the usual bills which wouldn’t have been a problem before the pandemic and the continuous rise in terminated workplaces. As a result, the public turned to cheaper forms of borrowing such as credit cards. Many ended up being addicted to them, and had to deal with higher interest rates on loans.
High rates of depression and anxiety also contributed to the rise in addiction rates. With so much uncertainty surrounding them, people felt depressed and anxious about what would happen next. This made them feel helpless and hopeless, especially those who lost their jobs within the first few months of the pandemic.
Russia’s Effect on the UK
During the pandemic the UK, we saw a massive rise in anxiety; a 13.4% rise in self-reported cases of clinical anxiety and a 20.6% rise in panic attacks. We also saw a 6.8% increase in suicidal thoughts among young men aged 16-24.
Depression can lead to alcoholism, and with as many negatively charged news being shot into our lives by both traditional and social media, we are faced with more mental health problems than ever before.
Recently, Russia aggressively invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine, leading to many sanctions, but also – fear which travelled without borders.
The reasons behind an eventual further rise in mental health issues are varied. Some believe it’s due to the lack of any real action taken against Russia and Putin’s actions towards the Ukrainian people. Others believe it’s because of the fear of war, something that has been lingering around for decades.
With the Russian army entering Ukraine, the UK government knew they needed to take immediate measures to protect the citizens of the UK.
Many people suffering from mental health issues may be reluctant to seek help during times like these, but there is still hope. The NHS offers free telephone advice lines to anyone struggling with anxiety or depression, and there are also online chat services available where you can talk anonymously with trained counsellors.
How to Help Each Other? Is There a Way Out?
Paul Spanjar of the Providence Projects explains the situation as “We have noticed a sharp rise in calls in the early stages of 2022, and sadly we expect this trend to continue as fears mount over war and economic uncertainty. People look for comfort during times of anxiety, and what starts as a way to switch off from the world can soon spiral into a daily habit of drinking or using substances as a coping mechanism.”
Looking for comfort is one of the main triggers for substance misuse, and this is not valid only for the United Kingdom where this private addiction provider’s services are based.
Mr Spanjar also warns that “Many of these individuals will remain in denial about their use, and so we may not fully understand the damage this will have on our society for many months, if not years to come.”
If you or a loved one are feeling the pressure of the current situation, or have still not found peace of mind because of the effects of the pandemic, seeking urgent help should be a priority.
It does not matter whether your problem is alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, shopping or anything else, you deserve to live in a happy and healthy environment. If you feel depressed or anxious please do not hesitate to contact a hotline, private or publicly-sponsored.