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Impaired driving down, but study shows drinking is up for people at home

Isolation 'takes a toll. People argue and with no distractions like sports or outdoor activities, it can add up quickly,' says police official

A recent study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) says many Canadians have increased their alcohol intake during the current COVID-19 health crisis.

Among Canadians, the CCSA reported that 25 per cent of people between 35 to 54 years old and 21 per cent of Canadians between 18 and 34 say they have increased their drinking while they are self-isolating at home. 

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon said there has been a decrease in driving while impaired charges, but there is still public intoxication happening.

“We had one impaired charge this Easter long weekend, but that equals last year’s total as well,” Leon told BarrieToday.

“Overall, however, there is a decrease in imapired driving and that clearly has to do with establishments not being open and people staying home more," he added. 

The CCSA poll also found that the main reasons for the increase among those who report drinking more are a lack of regular schedule (51 per cent), boredom (49 per cent), and stress (44 per cent).

Overall, 94 per cent of Canadians report they are currently staying at home more due to COVID-19.

Leon said there has been an increase in domestic issues in the five weeks since provincial orders asked people to stay home. 

“There is a lot of stress at this time with people being laid off and feeling stuck in their homes,” Leon said. “It doesn’t matter how big your house is, when there is all the financial strain and stress about the health crisis itself. It takes a toll. People argue and with no distractions like sports or outdoor activities, it can add up quickly.”

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said there are still ways for people to receive help and they are encouraged to check in with the health unit for direction.

“We’ve been asked about community services for substance addiction and the need for them and have provided our support to those agencies to allow them to operate safely at this time,” Gardner said. “We continue to monitor the use of opioids, the toxicity from opioids, in our emergency departments.”

Gardner said that, in addition to the current COVID-19 situation, there needed to be an awareness of societal issues such as poverty, violence issues, alcohol-use issues, and the use of opioids and other drugs. 

“Certainly that is a vulnerability for us when we’re struggling and focusing on COVID-19,” said Gardner. “We need to keep our eye on other vulnerabilities in the community such as opioids, such as longer term issues and other addictions.”