As we continue to experience COVID-19, another public health crisis goes quietly overlooked: the influx of substance use in correlation with the onset of the pandemic. Disrupting every aspect of society, COVID-19 has changed individuals’ habits and behaviours. For some, this means reducing their use of substances, but for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for significant increases in substance use, as visualized in the system map.
The pandemic emphasized existing factors that result in individuals being at a higher risk for developing substance use disorder, such as trauma and worsening mental health. It has also led to inaccessibility of services and supports that care for those with substance use disorder, such as safe consumption sites, the loss of which could significantly worsen the already dire health crisis.
As we continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, it is important to encourage people to approach addiction and substance use in a more nuanced and compassionate way. The rise in hospitalizations, deaths, and other negative health impacts due to substance use showcase the need for meaningful intervention now more than ever.