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Over half of people have been drinking more frequently during the pandemic, new survey finds

Published today, the latest edition of the Global Drugs Survey takes a look at how Covid-19 has changed our relationship with alcohol and drugs.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

OVER HALF OF people have been drinking more frequently since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey has found. 

A further 55% of us want to drink less in the coming month, while there’s also been an increase in people drinking alone since March. 

The latest edition of the Global Drugs Survey included 55,811 responses from over 11 countries, including 4,158 responses from people in Ireland. 

Those aged under 25 accounted for 5% of the study in Ireland, 23% of respondents were aged 25-34, 34% were aged 35-44 and 38% were aged 45 or over.

Respondents were asked a variety of questions, such as how they were coping with Covid, how they rated the government’s leadership during the crisis, and how their relationship with drugs and alcohol changed – if at all – during the pandemic.

According to the survey, 26% of people have drank alcohol between six and 10 days in the past month. A further 15% said they’d drank alcohol for 11-15 days, 12% said 16-20 days, 14% said 21-29 days and 6% said they had drank every day. 

Two in four people (40%) said they would drink 1-2 standard drinks on a day in which they drank. One standard drink is a half pint of beer or stout, a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits. 

A further 28% said they would drink 3 or 4 standard drinks on a day when they drank while 9% said they’d drink 10 or more standard drinks. 

When asked about the frequency of drinking during Covid-19, 52% of people said that they’d increased the number of days in which they drank by a little (30%) or a lot (22%). One in four (24%) said the frequency of their drinking has stayed the same.

When asked if they were starting to drink earlier in the day now compared to before Covid-19, 35% of people said they were while 56% said they wanted to drink less in the next 30 days. 

For those who have increased their drinking, respondents gave a variety of reasons for why they had done so.

Just under a third (31%) said the increase was only slight and not a big deal, but 40% said they’d increased their drinking because they had more time to drink while around 20% said they’d done so because they felt more lonely or depressed. 

A further 30% of people who’d increased their drinking said they’d done so partly as a reward for coping with what’s going on.

For those who are drinking less, a majority (55%) said they were doing so because they had less contact with people who they usually drink with. 

When it came to drinking alcohol alone, 44% said they did it more often since the start of the pandemic.

Of the over 4,000 people surveyed in Ireland, around 22% (927 people) reported using THC-containing cannabis products. Of those who used cannabis, 39% said they had done so more frequently during the pandemic. 

Of the 622 people who had done cocaine, however, almost half (47%) said they were doing it less frequently now. 

Respondents in Ireland ranked the highest among the rest of countries when asked if they thought the pandemic had led to a decreased availability of illegal drugs. 74% of respondents in Ireland felt it had, compared to 55% in the UK, 48% in the US and 35% in the Netherlands. 

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Overall, 52% of all those surveyed said they were coping “really well” with changes related to the Covid-19 pandemic. A further 45% said they were coping with some things not all while 3% said they were not coping well at all. 

When asked to rate their satisfaction with the government’s leadership during the pandemic out of 10, an 8/10 rating was highest on 29%. 7% of people gave the government 5/10 and another 7% gave it 6/10. 14% gave the government 10/10. 

Internationally, respondents in New Zealand scored their government the highest with 67% rating it a 9 or a 10. In Brazil, 70% of respondents gave a 0/10 while 42% of respondents in the US gave a 0 or 1 rating. 

Those behind the Global Drugs Survey, however, emphasised that their data is from a non-probability sample and their findings are not represented of the wider population.

It added: “The majority of our participants tend to be young, experienced with the use of illicit drugs, and employed or in education. We have included questions that are relevant to marginalised and vulnerable groups of people who use drugs, yet these groups are largely underrepresented online.”

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 that research work launched a special edition for Covid-19. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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