Since May there have been 156 new referrals to the government’s Alcohol and Drugs Service – 35 in May, 57 in June, 43 in July and 21 so far this month – a marked increase on previous months.
And the Alcohol and Drugs Service lead Simba Kashiri said the pressures that Covid-19 had brought to Islanders were behind the increase in alcohol consumption.
‘People are drinking more frequently and using it as a coping mechanism for a number of factors related to the impacts of coronavirus. The complexity of our clients has increased too; the state they present themselves in and the number of issues they are facing has widened.
‘A lot of people are working from home and this has given them more time and opportunity to drink. Many are facing stress-related issues to do with their financial state, the fears of a second wave, a loss of jobs or loved ones, while the factor of isolation has caused some to turn to alcohol.’
Meanwhile charity Silkworth Lodge, which runs a drugs and alcohol residential rehabilitation service, has also reported a significant increase in the number of admissions to its service since the start of lockdown.
The charity’s chief executive Jason Wyse said: ‘I believe that more Islanders have had reason to think and look at their alcohol consumption and at any underlying issues that may have already been there, which have been brought up more to the surface during lockdown.’
Mr Wyse thinks that many people, especially those who have not had access to their usual support services during lockdown, had used alcohol as a coping mechanism.
‘For many people, drinking more alcohol does not necessarily mean they are dependent on it but if an individual’s pattern of alcohol use has significantly changed, and they are feeling uncomfortable with how the pattern is changing, then they should seek guidance and support in this regard,’ he said.
‘I believe that our transition down the levels of lockdown has been done in a healthy way, which has helped those who may be feeling the negative impact of alcohol use through lockdown to start the process of dealing with these issues in a more timely fashion.’
While the reopening of restaurants and pubs presents an opportunity for further alcohol consumption, Mr Wyse does not believe this will directly encourage further alcohol usage.
‘I think more people will visit restaurants and pubs in order to gain some form of normality back in their lives, as for many it is a way of socially interacting with others as well as people wanting to get back into supporting the local restaurant and pub trade,’ he said.
Recognising the physical, mental and social difficulties experienced by Islanders as a result of lockdown, Mr Wyse said that it was important to highlight those challenges where alcohol was concerned.
‘People need to be aware of their relationship with alcohol and how their behaviours are impacting themselves and others while they are under the influence and, where necessary, they should cut down or seek professional support and guidance,’ he said.
Anyone wishing to seek support or guidance in relation to alcohol or drugs can contact the States alcohol and drugs service on 445000 or Silkworth Lodge on 729060.