Support for alcohol and drug users urged as festive season looms

Health authorities are urging those affected by drugs and alcohol to access a new online portal to connect them to support services. Image: stock photo.

By TILEAH DOBSON

While the last couple of years has seen Covid-19 attack our collective health, it has not been the only health issue to loom large. Hand-in-hand with the novel coronavirus has been a rise in drug and alcohol usage, spurred on by the stressful effects of the lockdowns, restrictions and general uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

According to the 2021 Annual Report by the drinks and hospitality company Endeavour Group Limited (EDV), there was an 86 per cent growth in monthly active users for BWS and Dan Murphy’s apps during the 2020/21 financial year. During the lockdown, these stores were considered essential and therefore, still open to trade.

The report, which was released on 8 September, states that there was a 9.3 per cent increase in sales on the previous last year’s $10.6 billion profits. Online sales contributed $859 million, which was a rise of 34.7 per cent from the previous year.

Considering such staggering numbers – and with the festive season looming – it’s the optimal time to reach out for help if you or a loved one is experiencing reliance on drugs and alcohol. A recent survey conducted by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation showed only 41 per cent of people felt they knew how to provide help – a number Alcohol and Drug Foundation CEO, Dr Erin Lalor, hopes will rise as we enter the festive season.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation works with sporting clubs, schools and health care services to help minimise the harm from drugs and alcohol. Photo: Alcohol and Drugs Foundation/Facebook.

“To help those who might be worried, we’ve launched the Path2Help portal. Just plug in your answers to 11 questions and the portal will automatically sift through more than 7,000 specialist services to match you to support services closest to you, based on your specific needs and circumstances,” Dr Lalor said.

“Annually, there are over 4,100 alcohol-related deaths and over 2,000 drug-related deaths in Australia. Additionally, thousands of people are hospitalised and treated for alcohol or other drug-related diagnoses each year.”

The organisation has over 60 years of service to the Australian community, with the Alcohol and Drug Foundation becoming one of the leading bodies committed to minimising and preventing drug and alcohol related harm. With a reach of millions across the country, the foundation offers educational information, alcohol and drug prevention programs, and advocates for stronger and healthier communities.

Registered nurse Jacinta Hoolahan believes such initiatives are essential in preventing further harm, especially with Christmas around the corner.

“I work at Nepean Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit. In ICU we encounter an array of patients who have issues with drugs and alcohol abuse. The main types of patients are those who intentionally or accidentally overdose, or those who have developed liver disease from their alcohol abuse,” Hoolahan said.

“Lockdown resulted in an increase in patients admitted with drug/alcohol overdoses. We saw a surge in patients with a huge decline in their mental health from the unpredictable situation we were in, which sadly saw a lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope,” she told the Sentinel.

“I think this year’s festive season will have a different feel. For the first time in over twoyears, we are able to have a much less restricted Christmas, able to celebrate with our extended friends and family, as well as being together with the vaccinated and unvaccinated.”

Registered nurse Jacinta Hoolahan hopes residents will stay safe during the festive season. Photo: Jacinta Clare/Facebook.

While further restrictions are set to be eased by 15 December or once the state reaches 95 per cent double vaccinated, Hoolahan urged people to be mindful of safety.

“I know it is exciting that this can occur but I urge people to be sensible,” Hoolahan said.

“The festive season is always harder for some people than others and for this reason, people often increase their drug and alcohol intake. My advice is to surround yourself with positive people who love and care about you and be sensible,” she said,

“Stay safe and look after yourself and those around you.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug-related issues, help can be sought online from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation at https://adf.org.au/path2help/.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.

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