Drug and alcohol use during the Covid-19 pandemic

In challenging times it might be tempting to reach towards alcohol or drugs for stress reduction, but excessive consumption can make things more difficult in the long run.

Cutting down

Ahead of the first Level 4 lockdown in 2020, New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council reported some liquor stores saw a 1800% spike in their daily sales. You may be more aware of your friends drinking in recent months and social media feeds are currently soaked with booze.

A healthy, functioning household will help you to get through this. Think carefully about your use and how it might affect those around you. Alcohol related injuries put a strain on the health care system and it can also be a contributing factor in family violence and crime. We really want to avoid overloading health services and the police, so it might be a good opportunity to think about taking a break. Even if you do not think you have a problem with your drinking habits or alcohol consumption, you might want to consider taking the alcohol.org.nz test.

Although alcohol might initially help you to feel relaxed, it can make you feel more anxious as it wears off. If you decide you would like to cut down your alcohol or drug use, you might find that the things that distracted you from turning to these substances are not so readily available to you at the moment. Consequently, you might need to look at some other new ways to better manage boredom, frustration or anxiety.

Our Student Wellbeing Ambassadors have put together some top tips for staying well and keeping yourself occupied during lockdown:

Managing addiction

If you struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol you may need additional support during the pandemic. The Level has lots of advice for those who might be experiencing withdrawal, using drugs, or supporting someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs.

If you continue to use during periods of isolating at home, think about ways of reducing risk to yourself and the people around you.

The NZ Drug Foundation suggests the following:

  • Know what to expect from the substance you are taking. Now is not the time for experimenting; we need to avoid giving our health services extra work. Tripsit me has additional information on this. 
  • Measure your dose, use a smaller amount to start, and wait at least an hour before using more. Avoid using multiple substances as this increases the risk of overdose.
  • Make an overdose plan if you are using around other people. Stagger use if possible, so at least one person can respond in an emergency. 

If you reduce your use, that’s great. You may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to the changes. For most people this will be mild and pass in a few days. For those who have been using a lot over an extended period, it might be more uncomfortable, lasting up to two weeks.

Recognise an overdose

Signs that someone is experiencing a drug overdose, alcohol poisoning or severe withdrawal may include: confusion, being unable to wake up, vomiting and seizures, slow or irregular breathing, hypothermia, bluish skin colour and/or paleness.

You should call 111 for an ambulance immediately if these symptoms are present. Download the First Aid app for access to life saving information.

Get help

Despite our best intentions, things don’t always go according to plan.

Check out say yeah, nah, on how to turn down a drink

Livingsober is a place to talk safely and honestly about your relationship with alcohol

Alcoholics Anonymous hold virtual meetings and a supportive community

Alcohol Drug Helpline provide free, confidential advice 24/7