As Canadians increasingly struggle with mental health and addictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis agency is hoping a new campaign will help spur awareness of dangerous drinking habits.
The DryDay campaign asks for Albertans to take at least one — and hopefully more — days a week off from consuming alcohol.
The agency launched the push due to concerns over mental health and habits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s not about being judgey, it’s not about finger-pointing,” Eric Baich, AGLC’s social responsibility director, said. “It’s just about reflection on what are things we can do in our daily lives as we navigate this pandemic — how can we make sure that we are not adding to the problem.
“Doing a dry day in between some socializing days is just one of those ways.”
An Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News in December 2020 found that nearly four in 10 respondents said they have faced mental health, addiction or alcohol issues in some form over the past year.
The same poll found that 15 per cent of Canadians said they’ve consumed more alcohol in the past year.
Leslie Buckley with the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said she believes that because the pandemic has changed daily life so much, it has also affected addictive behaviours.
“When people are stressed they often look at their coping mechanisms, and sometimes increase their substance use if they’re not able to get through that stress on their own,” Buckley said.
“What I’m worried about is after the pandemic is people may have escalated their drinking, they might have new times when they drink that are much more common.
“It might be harder than we think to turn back the clock … and [harder to] be able to easily reduce back to the amount that was consumed before the pandemic.”
Baich said the AGLC is hopeful that bringing the attention to taking days off will help Albertans better estimate how much they are drinking.
Albertan Blake Seidler said he started paying attention to how much he was drinking in the new year once he noticed alcohol was cutting into his budget.
“I would say the driving factor was the huge increase in time spent at home. Just not being able to have breaks from raising children, being with family and not having outlets. I stopped spending time on fitness that I would normally have done.
“Drinking became my choice instead of a lot of the other things I would have chosen to do.”
Buckey said that the “taking a break” method can help identify if you have a problem.
“It’s really important to have a break whether it’s a month or a day,” she said. “It also helps you reset routines and create patterns, it forces you to think about other alternative coping mechanisms to reduce your stress or your worry other than alcohol.
“In so many ways, COVID-19 is a perfect storm for increasing substance use, alcohol in particular, because we know that people are experiencing so much more stress.”
The AGLC recommends that men have no more than 15 alcoholic drinks per week. Women should have no more than 10.