Substance use during the pandemic

Substance Use During the Pandemic

If you feel like you drink, smoke or depend upon other substances more than usual during these challenging times, you aren’t alone. In previous pandemics like SARS and H1N1, many frontline workers directly serving the public said that they depended more than usual upon recreational substances and activities such as gambling to manage stress both during and after these pandemics.

Many people use various substances alcohol and habit-forming activities to cope with difficult feelings like stress, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, boredom, and isolation. It’s a common response to trauma, grief, or other difficult experiences. However, these forms of recreational use can cause problems when people rely upon them too much or too often.
Some signs that you may need to think about making changes to the way you use recreational substances or activities may result in:
  • Feelings that recreational substances and activities are the only way you manage stress, fear, uncertainty, and other uncomfortable feelings
  • Reliance on recreational substances and activities is your only strategy for you to relax or unwind at the end of the day
  • You often indulge more in recreational substances and activities than you intend
  • Your relationships with family, friends, or coworkers have become strained due to substance use
  • You have a hard time stopping once you’ve started
  • You miss work or other obligations as a result
  • You find yourself in unsafe situations, like driving under the influence

Recreational substance use can cause problems when people rely upon it too much or too often.

Not sure where you stand? Take the Alcohol Reality Check at to help you understand your relationship with alcohol or other substance overuse patterns.

Looking for More?

Indulging a little more than usual right now doesn’t automatically mean that you have a substance abuse problem. It may be a sign that you need extra help and support right now, and there are many people and resources available to help you out:
  • 24 Hour Help and Crisis Lines: The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba has a comprehensive list of 24-hour, province-wide help lines to provide support and community connections for mental health, substance use and addictions.
  • Manitoba Addictions Helpline: Free, confidential information and referrals to local service providers and support groups. Call toll-free at 1-855-662-6605 (toll-free) or email For general information on addictions support, programs and resources, visit the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba website at
  • Care for All in Education Hub: Contact our Team of Wellness Support Specialists to help connect you to substance use assistance programs and counseling in your community by calling 1-877-602-1660, by sending an email to: or sending your inquiry through the Contact Us menu of the Hub.
  • Your Family/Employee Assistance Program: Contact your workplace F/EAP provider to see how they can help you.

If Drinking Affects You at Work

If your alcohol use is part of an alcohol use disorder that you are seeking treatment to resolve, it’s treated as a health problem. In Manitoba, employers can’t discriminate based on any disability, which includes a mental illness or substance use disorder. Your employer has to try to make reasonable changes to help you if you disclose or say that you have a disability, such as allow you to take time off for treatment. However, it’s also reasonable for employers to set guidelines that keep everyone safe, such as prohibiting intoxication at work. If you belong to a union, they may have a disability management program or a staff member who can help you. Ask your steward if you need help contacting your union.


To Learn More

Learn More about Alcohol Use: For more on making healthier changes to your alcohol use, download the Centre for Addictions Research of BC workbook “Stuff to think about..and ways to make changes”, a comprehensive online learning tool with information person-centred information on finding support, making changes, harm reduction strategies and resources for more help.

Web Resources

For more information, we have compiled a list of resources to help you cope up with anxiety during these difficult days.

6 Tips to Respond to Employee Anxiety About COVID-19

Meant for employers and managers, this webpage created by the Canadian Mental Health Association contains tips for responding to the feeling of anxiety staff may be having.

7 Science-based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety

In this article hosted on The Conversation, psychologist Jelena Kecmanovic provides science-based methods on dealing with anxiety caused by COVID-19.

How to Stay Psychologically Healthy During the Coronavirus Outbreak

This article by Psychology Today provides proven techniques for managing stress and anxiety over the COVID-19 outbreak.

Looking For More?

Free resources to help with your anxiety available from your phone

Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line

If you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be, call the Suicide Prevention line. Someone will be ready to listen and speak to you.

Call 1-877-435-7170 anytime.


Download for iOS or Android

This free app from Anxiety Canada helps users track anxiety daily. You will work through tools while applying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches.

Download today for Apple or Android.


Text Mood to 760-670-3130

If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, Text4Mood sends you a daily inspirational text message to support positive mental health.

To join, text Mood to 760-670-3130.