March 12, 2021

Getting support to avoid substance misuse

Substance use has been increasing during the pandemic.
Getting support

COVID-19 related stressors — from financial stress to loneliness and worry about the health of family members — have had a big impact on substance use. A recent poll on mental health and substance use during COVID-19 found mental health symptoms and problematic substance use high across the board. Some of the results are concerning:

  • 1 in 3 respondents who use alcohol reported increased use, and 1 in 5 reported problematic use
  • 2 out of 5 who use cannabis reported increased use AND problematic use
  • Almost half of the respondents with current mental health symptoms who consume cannabis reported an increase in consumption

There were also more overdose related deaths last year compared to 2019. During this difficult time, knowing the warning signs of dependency is an important step to getting help.

How to assess if you should be concerned about yourself or a friend

Dependence on a substance is different for each person and no single factor determines whether someone will misuse substances. However, there are some general signs to think about if you are worried about yourself or a loved one:

  • Injuries while under the influence
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability or depression
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Blackouts
  • Problems with relationships
  • Spending money on substances rather than on food, rent or other essentials
  • Legal problems related to substance use
  • Loss of hope, feelings of emptiness

You can also use the Spectrum of Substance Use from Alberta Health Services to have a better understanding of your relationship with substances, or follow the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s CAGE guidelines:

  • Have you ever tried to Cut down on your drinking or other drug use?
  • Have you ever felt Angry at or annoyed by someone else's comments about your drinking or other drug use?
  • Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking or other drug use?
  • Have you ever used alcohol or other drugs as an Eye-opener (first thing in the morning)?

On campus resources

Off-campus resources

  • Wellness Together Canada: Mental health and substance use website to support people across Canada and Canadians living abroad at no cost.
  • Togetherall Virtual Mental Health Support: Mental health and substance use support available to Albertans at no cost.
  • Alberta Addiction Helpline: 1-866-332-2322
  • Self-help programs and groups like AA or Smart Recovery
  • Supervised Consumption Site in the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre
  • Social media harm reduction initiatives like the student run @theliamprojectyyc