A Derry centre which supports people with alcohol and drug addictions says it has seen a 50% drop during the last month in the number of people contacting them.
The Northlands Addiction Treatment Centre says the drop in the number of new people contacting their organisation directly for help is compared to the number of similar requests for help with drink or drug problems in April last year.
Describing the reduction in direct contacts as ‘very worrying’, Northlands’ Head of Treatment, Tommy Canning, says it is safe to assume that in the current climate many people are facing real difficulty in their own homes.
"We know anecdotally that people’s drinking habits have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
"UK alcohol sales were up 67% in the week to 21 March, compared to overall supermarket sales which rose by only 43%.
"There is no reason to suppose that the pattern is very different here in Northern Ireland.
"Consider, too, the number of people who were drinking problematically or addictively before lockdown."
Mr Canning said one early feature of the lockdown was the rise in calls to domestic violence charities.
"The rise in alcohol use will inevitably lead to increased tensions in homes, creating more stress and anxiety for partners, children and families in general.
"Restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic meant Northlands took the difficult decision of suspending all residential treatment in our 8-bed centre for the first time in our 50-year history.
"Twenty people are currently waiting to be admitted for this treatment.
"Despite the suspension of residential treatment, our staff continue to provide counselling and support services via telephone and video conferencing.
"Our aftercare groups continue to operate online. Traffic to our website has risen by 42% compared to this time last year."
Mr Canning urged people suffering with addiction, or their family members, to avail of Northlands’ support services.
"Addiction creates isolation. In an environment where isolation is the message, it is vital to reach out for support and help," he said.
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