To flatten the curve and control the spread of COVID-19, the Australian Government implemented social distancing measures in every state and territory. This has resulted in millions of people across the country being forced to isolate indoors from family and friends for an indeterminable period, which is continuing at the time of this article being published.
Long-term isolation has a profound effect on our mental and physical health. We already know that humans are social creatures, so being deprived of physical human contact can have ill effects. From impairing immune function and cognitive decline to developing anxiety and depression, isolation is a serious issue that can’t be taken lightly in these unprecedented times. While long-term isolation has been known to cause a host of issues, there is another underlying issue that may rear its head: alcohol and drug abuse and dependency.
The link between isolation and substance use
There is often a spike in non-negative results after peak holiday season when workplace drug testing has been performed. Can we expect the same after we return to work when the restrictions have been lifted from COVID-19? It’s possible.
When people are socially isolated from loved ones, they may look for other ways to fill the void. Whether they are recreational drug users or dependent on it already, people will look for coping strategies in illicit substances and abuse of alcohol.
Due to COVID-19, there are many factors that may contribute to an increased consumption of alcohol and drug use, which include:
- Being under stress and having concerns about one’s financials
- Feeling uncertain about their employment status
- Being in a confined environment
- Not maintaining routine
Research by The Australian Government suggested that this period of isolation may lead to a spike in drug misuse. This is because when the Federal Government announced a ban on non-essential services – which included bars, pubs and clubs – there was a surge in liquor store purchases across the country. Many people may feel they are left with no other options but to indulge at home.
Implications for overindulgence
With an increased consumption, there could be more pressure placed on the nation’s health system. We already know that drug and alcohol abuse can compromise one’s immune system. This means individuals who use drugs are more at risk of catching COVID-19 – and having complications from it.
Drug testing in the workplace
If you are concerned about the productivity and wellbeing of your employees when returning to work is on the cards, consider giving comprehensive drug and alcohol testing to your workers when they return. MediNat can assist you with a range of industrial breathalysers, urine drug test kits and training in accordance with Australian Standards.
For more information, please contact MediNat on 1300 725 522 for a confidential discussion about your needs.