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Over half of Irish people say they drink alcohol more frequently since Covid-19 restrictions brought in

The interim Global Drug Survey special edition on Covid-19 was published today.

Image: Shutterstock/komokvm

Updated Jun 3rd 2020, 9:19 AM

MORE THAN 50% of Irish respondents to a global survey about drugs and alcohol use say they have seen an increase in the frequency of their drinking since the Covid-19 restrictions were implemented. 

For the past number of years, TheJournal.ie has partnered with the Global Drug Survey to understand people’s relationship with controlled and uncontrolled substances. 

The team behind this research has today published an special edition of this study on the impact the pandemic has had on the use of alcohol and drugs. 

The interim report found that out of 2,200 Irish people who took part, 54% said the frequency of their drinking had increased by some capacity. 

The survey was conducted online and people took part voluntarily, meaning those who responded likely took interest in the topics being examined. 

alcohol consumption Percentage of respondents who said the frequency of their drinking had increased since before Covid-19 restrictions, broken down by country. Source: Global Drug Survey

32% said it had increased a little while 22% said it had increased a lot.

This was one of the highest levels of any country surveyed and higher than the global average of 44% who said they noticed an increase. 

Most participants of the survey tended to be young, have experience with illicit drugs and employed or in education, the team behind the survey said. 

The median age of those who took part in Ireland was 39. 

In terms of how Irish people say they are coping with the pandemic and the related restrictions, nearly 52% of respondents said they were coping “really well” which is 2% above the global average. 

45% of Irish people said they were coping with some things, but not others.

Alcohol use

Nearly one-third of people globally said the number of days they drink in an average week has increased “a little” since February, before Covid-19 restrictions were in place in most countries. 

Overall, 44% of people reported an increase in the frequency of their drinking while 25.5% reported a decrease.  

binge drinking Increase in binge drinking levels broken down by country. Source: Global Drug Survey

Ireland had the highest number of respondents who said their level of binge drinking had increased, with 38% of people saying it had either increased a little or a lot since February. 

Binge drinking is in this instance described as consuming five or more drinks in one single setting. 

In terms of the reasons people give for an increase in alcohol consumption, the most common answer was ‘I have more time to drink’ with 43% of people choosing this response. 

One-quarter of people surveyed said they were drinking more due to anxieties and stress caused by what is going on at the moment. 

Overall, 42% of participants said they would like to drink less alcohol in the next 30 days. 

On the other side, two-thirds of people who have seen a decrease in their drinking said this was caused by having less contact with the people they usually drink with. 

Government satisfaction rating 

satisfaction levels This satisfaction level scale went from 0 (worst) to 10 (best). Source: Global Drug Survey

Irish people rated their satisfaction with the leadership of the country’s government during the pandemic at eight out of ten when asked in this survey.

The global average for this was seven. People surveyed in New Zealand had the highest median level of any country, with a rating of nine out of ten. 

At nearly 90%, Ireland had the second highest number of people who said they had kept a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres between themselves and those outside their household in the past 30 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

This is 12% higher than the global average. For self-isolation, however, Ireland was 2% below the global average as 44% of people said they had stayed at home to prevent the spread of the disease.  

Illicit drug use

Ireland had the lowest rate of cannabis use, with 23% of those surveyed saying they had used it in the past year. 

This compares to a high of 61% in Denmark and 58% in the Netherlands. 

40% of people in Ireland who use cannabis products said they had increased their usage in some capacity, while 60% said it had stayed the same or decreased. 

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benzo use 2 Use of benzodiazepines in the last 12 months broke up by country. Source: Global Drug Survey

Ireland was among the top three users of benzodiazepines in the past 12 months, standing at 12% of those who responded to this survey.

The report on this survey said Covid-19 has had a “huge” impact on drug dealing and distribution. 

“It seems that drug markets have been pretty robust and GDS predicts that following lockdown, many regions will be flooded by high purity drugs as dealers try to shift unsold stock and distribute stockpiles that had been prepared for the European summer,” it said. 

Relationships

The survey also asked people about abusive relationships and changes to their relationships during the pandemic. It surveyed people in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. 

In total, 18% of people said they had noticed more tension in their relationship since the pandemic.

Upwards of 15% of people said they had experienced abusive behaviours, with the highest rate of 20% seen in males with male partners.

45% of females with male partners who have experienced abusive behaviour from their partner in the last month said they had noticed an increase in threats from their partner to harm or kill them or someone close to them. 

***

There is still time to take part in the full study. 

The team behind the Global Drugs Survey believe in “honest conversations about alcohol and other drugs” and includes questions on whether the respondent’s alcohol and drug use has changed because of coronavirus and if those changes have had subsequent consequences.

There will also be questions about the drug market and access to services.

The survey is encrypted, all responses are anonymous and confidential and it doesn’t collect IP addresses.

The results of the full survey will be published on TheJournal.ie.

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