Urgent action needed to address lockdown ‘time bomb’, warns Adfam

People coping with a loved one’s drug use, drinking or gambling have been hard hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, according to a new survey from Adfam.

Families are often overlooked when it comes to discussions of problematic alcohol or drug use. However, half of the respondents to Families in lockdown said the situation had had a negative impact on their own mental health, while 28 per cent said they were experiencing more verbal abuse than usual and 13 per cent admitted to being concerned for their safety. Nearly 5 per cent said they had been experiencing more physical abuse during lockdown.

Almost half also stated that their loved one’s substance use or gambling had increased during the lockdown period, while just under a third reported that the person had either relapsed or their recovery was at risk.

Vivienne Evans: Lockdown is making feelings of isolation even worse

Around 5m people are thought to be dealing with the negative effects of loved one’s alcohol or drug use in the UK, with 85 per cent of respondents to the survey saying the lockdown had made a ‘bad situation worse’. Many of these people will need urgent additional support as lockdown conditions ease, warns the charity.

‘At least one in ten of us are currently affected by a loved one’s drinking, drug taking or gambling problem,’ said Adfam chief executive Vivienne Evans. ‘Our survey shows that this unrecognised and hidden problem has been made worse by the lockdown. When you are already isolated, fearful or in poor mental and physical health, lockdown takes an even bigger toll. Even when restrictions ease, people will need help and support to recover. Now more than ever, we need a national conversation about how we can help people to cope with the life-long impacts of a loved one’s alcohol, drug or gambling problem.’

Meanwhile, UNODC’s latest World drug report has highlighted the increased prices and reduced purity of many drugs as a result of COVID-19 lockdown measures. The economic fallout from the pandemic is also likely to disproportionately affect the poorest and make them more vulnerable to problem drug use, it warns.

If governments react in the same way they did in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, then reduced budgets for drug treatment could mean severe impact on vital areas like naloxone provision and prevention measures.

‘Vulnerable and marginalised groups, youth, women and the poor pay the price for the world drug problem,’ said UNODC executive director Ghada Waly. ‘The COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn threaten to compound drug dangers further still, when our health and social systems have been brought to the brink and our societies are struggling to cope. We need all governments to show greater solidarity and provide support, to developing countries most of all, to tackle illicit drug trafficking and offer evidence-based services for drug use disorders and related diseases.’

 Families in lockdown at adfam.org.uk

World drug report 2020 at www.unodc.org

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