Impact of coronavirus on mental health and addiction

Published 26th October 2020

COVID-19: The Impact on Addiction

The Office for National Statics has reported that over two thirds of adults (69%) are very or somewhat worried about the effect that COVID-19 is having on their lives. The most common issues affecting wellbeing were feeling worried about the future, feeling stressed or anxious and feeling bored. A higher level of stress can lead to increased alcohol and substance use.

Addiction coronavirus


Increase in cases

An article from the BBC has highlighted the impact that COVID-19 has had on addictions, with the Royal College of Psychiatrists warning that addiction services in England could struggle to cope with the ‘soaring’ number of people misusing alcohol since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Analysis of Public Health England data found that in June, over 8.4 million people in England were drinking at higher risk levels, which had increased from 4.8 million people in February. Additionally, National Drug Treatment Monitoring System statistics reveal 3459 new cases of adults seeking treatment for opioid addiction – which is up 20% from April the previous year.

Laura Bunt from the mental health charity We Are With You said: ‘Social isolation and a lack of a human connection is a big factor behind why some people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, so clearly the pandemic continues to be really tough for many people.’



Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that ‘addiction services have been starved of funding in recent years, meaning many are not able to treat and care for the huge numbers of people who are drinking at high risk’.

Prof. Julia Sinclair, Chair of the College’s addiction faculty commented ‘COVID-19 has shown just how stretched, under-resourced and ill-equipped addiction services are… Drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions were already at an all-time high before COVID-19. I fear that unless the government acts quickly we will see these numbers rise exponentially.’

Read the full press release here.


Increased COVID-19 risk

HealthDay News has reported that people with addiction disorders are at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill if infected with COVID-19.

Dr. Nora Volkow stated that “a contributing factor is the marginalization of people with addiction, which makes it harder for them to access health care services,” in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote that whilst it is not yet clear whether the occurrence of COVID-19 is more prevalent in people who have a substance use disorder compared to those who don’t use drugs, it is possible that drug use could make the illness more severe. For example, the use of stimulants such as cocaine can cause stroke, heart attacks and lung damage, and opioid use can lead to ineffective breathing and, subsequently, decreased oxygen in the blood.


Next steps:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists outlined the next steps for funding mental healthcare in England, stating that funding available to local government and the NHS must be increased to enable:

– Local authorities to prepare and respond to increasing levels of mental distress and co-morbid physical health problems in the population due to COVID-19 and as a result of lockdown, which has caused anxiety and loneliness, amongst other issues

– Mental health providers to prepare for an increase in demand for NHS mental health services

– Local authorities and the NHS to prepare for an increase in demand for drug and alcohol use disorder services given the way in which the pandemic has exacerbated these illnesses, and the reduced availability of some services during the peak

They also recommend that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) allocate £30m of capital funding for drug and alcohol use disorder services by 2024/25.

Read the full paper here. A spokesperson from DHSC stated that ‘we have increased their funding this year, providing over £3.2 billion to spend on public health services like addiction.’


Useful services:

Alcoholics anonymous – 0800 9177 650

Drinkline – 0300 123 1110

Narcotics anonymous – 0300 999 1212


We are also working with Addiction treatment specialists Help Me Stop to promote their Digital DayHab service which offers all of the benefits on a lived in rehab service from the comfort of your own home. For more information visit –


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