We must tackle the rise in addictions caused by the pandemic

The Forward Trust’s CEO Mike Trace comments on the charity’s new poll showing the rise in addictive behaviour during the pandemic, and the steps Forward is taking to address it.

In June 2020, Action on Addiction published its first poll results which explored the impact the pandemic was having on addictive behaviours. It was a first of many polls that exposed creeping consumption of alcohol during lockdowns.

Following the merger of Action on Addiction with The Forward Trust in May 2021, we want to understand whether the effects of the second and third lockdowns continued to have a worrying impact on rates of alcohol/drug use and related problems.

A year on, we have repeated the survey of over 2,000 people with YouGov. Taken from a broad and representative sample of the adult population, the results have highlighted compelling and concerning patterns that require urgent investigation and response from across the sector, and wider healthcare professions, in policy and spending decisions.

The results are not a surprise to many working in the addiction field. We know addiction feeds off isolation, a sense of hopelessness and disconnection. The pandemic in many ways is a perfect breeding ground for it. What starts with increasing consumption – reaching out for something familiar – is, for an increasing number of people, moving into a habit that they cannot control. And for many people, this creeps into an addiction will take them by surprise.

This path to addiction doesn’t happen overnight. Dependency and its consequences emerge gradually, until the substance or behaviour become the most important part of someone’s life.

Before work, sleep, health, friendships, relationships and children. The perception of an addiction is in many minds of the park bench, the crack den, the needles in an alley – isolated and away from normal life. It’s true those lives do exist – however, the vast majority of people living with addictions are living their lives among us; some noticeably, others hidden and unnoticed.

Whatever a person’s reality, a slide into addiction can be gradual and unexpected rather than a deliberate choice. From the 20-something saying, ‘it won’t happen to me’, to the retired couple drinking heavily every night – or, as Bryony Gordon told us in the recent In Conversation with Clouds House: ‘I run marathons; I do Pilates; I can’t be an alcoholic’. What’s more, our survey highlights that this unexpected nature of addiction will be playing out now, at scale, in homes, families, workplaces, Zoom calls, school gates across all our lives at an increasing level.

Read the full blog post here.

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This content was created by The Forward Trust

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