KAWARTHA LAKES-Hospital visits and admissions related to alcohol use are up significantly since the beginning of the pandemic according to data obtained from Ross Memorial Hospital.
In 2019, 237 people went to the emergency department (ED)at Ross Memorial Hospital because of alcohol-related issues and an additional 103 were admitted. During the first year of the pandemic, in 2020, 296 people walked through the doors of the ED and 124 were admitted to hospital. The numbers continued to climb in 2021. 355 people presented at the ED with an additional 173 people being admitted to hospital with conditions related to alcohol use.
These numbers include any visit with alcohol as any type of diagnosis.
The LCBO reported business was booming during the pandemic. Ontario Premier Doug Ford cited concern for people addicted to alcohol as a basis for keeping liquor stores open throughout lockdowns.
“I know there are some people at home thinking, ‘How does that work?'” he said at a news conference last month. “Well, there are people out there with addictions. We’re there to help them.”
Alcohol use in Canada increased overall during COVID-19 according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Based on statistics from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Canadian Institute for Health Information, ‘problematic’ alcohol use rose 30% between March 2020 and June 2021 in Canada.
“There are a number of reasons for the higher alcohol consumption, including boredom, anxiety and depression, stress, and loneliness caused by COVID-19. Other factors could be increased access to alcohol from home delivery services and lower prices for alcohol.” Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit Substances and Harm Reduction Coordinator, Catherine MacDonald, told Kawartha 411 News.
MacDonald says overall, there was a 10% increase in hospitalizations due to alcohol harms across Canada during the pandemic. These were mostly due to conditions associated with chronic (or long-term) alcohol use.
“Harms are any injury, illness or impairment caused by alcohol use and can be related to physical and mental health. The age group that saw the highest jump in hospitalizations for alcohol-related harm were people in their 30s. Many hospitalizations were due to conditions tied to long-term alcohol use, like liver disease. Hospitalizations also increased for mental health and behavioural disorders associated with alcohol use”
While ED visits and hospitalizations increased locally hospitalizations for alcohol-related harms increased nationally as well but emergency department visits decreased by 9% across Canada during the pandemic. There were fewer incidents of alcohol-related harm in younger Canadians ages 10-29 years during COVID-19.
“This is again likely due to COVID-19 restrictions that resulted in extended closures of bars and restaurants, and limits on social gatherings and parties, and youth spending more time at home.” said MacDonald.
Macdonald stresses if you choose to drink alcohol, be sure to do so responsibly.
“Don’t drink to combat anxiety or depression from COVID-19. Doing so will only make matters worse. If your mental health is being impacted by the pandemic, the Health Unit offers these resources to support your mental wellbeing.”
Another good resource is Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. The guidelines can help you make informed decisions about drinking and set limits to reduce any short-term and long-term health risks of alcohol use.
In part two of this series, we will take a look at tobacco use during the pandemic.