Drug and alcohol addiction surged because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of Ireland’s leading specialists in addiction medicine has warned.
A recent study in Britain found that drug use among young people has skyrocketed since the end of restrictions; 33% of those aged between 16 and 25 have used an illegal drug in the past year - compared to only 22% the previous year.
For Dr Garrett McGovern, Medical Director at the Priority Medical Clinic in Dundrum, the study merely confirms what he is seeing at work:
“I don’t think it’s just young people,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“It mightn’t surprise you but I think alcohol use kind of went through the roof during lockdown and there was a recoil effect when restrictions are lifted.
“People didn’t reduce the drinking [habit] that they had developed.”
Lockdown meant that many people who might normally have sought medical treatment stayed at home - something has caused a huge backlog in presentations:
“Initially, when COVID broke we all went quiet in the clinics. We were kind of wondering, ‘What is going on here?’” he recalled.
“But what was actually festering away at home was that people were using drugs and drinking alcohol and then the whole thing kind of exploded and then it got really, really busy.
“Post-COVID [restrictions], we’re definitely seeing more people presenting for treatment.”
Many people struggled with the isolation of lockdown and Dr McGovern believes society has not yet fully aware of how it has damaged people’s mental health:
“I think people are underestimating the impact that lockdown has had on people,” he continued.
“It’s had devastating effects on some people and certainly some people I’ve treated just couldn’t deal with it at all.
“They went into themselves, they got depressed and they either drank more or they used more drugs - usually cocaine.”
Main image: A man using cocaine.