COVID-19 and lockdown life can bring up difficult feelings, and you might find yourself using more than you normally would.
If you are feeling lonely, bored, or frustrated, you might notice you are turning to alcohol and other drugs to help you cope. Once these patterns get established, they can be hard to break. To help keep yourself and those around you mentally and physically well, here are some steps you can take…
- Consider using less or taking a break for a while.
- If you are taking drugs, making sure you clean all equipment and surfaces before and after use. Before preparing anything, wash your hands well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, then dry. COVID-19 is spread through droplets, so it is important to prepare the drugs you are using yourself. Don't share equipment.
- If you take medications, make sure you know how using alcohol or other drugs at the same time could affect you. Avoid taking risks right now – this will ensure our health services can focus on COVID-19.
- Know what you are using, the effects it will have, and how long those effects will last. You might like to make a plan for your use and recovery – and ask people you trust to help you stick to it.
- Keep accessing the services you need. The NZ Needle Exchange Programme and Opioid Substitution Therapy will continue to operate.
- Think about whether you are in the right environment and mental state to use alcohol and other drugs right now. These substances can make feelings of stress and anxiety worse.
- Make sure your method of use (for example IV, smoking, snorting) is as safe as it can be. COVID-19 can cause breathing issues, and inhaling drugs damages your respiratory system – including your throat and lungs. If you decide to switch to consuming drugs orally, remember that it can take longer for them to take effect. Wait at least an hour before considering taking more.
- Have you got sterile equipment? Use single-use straws if snorting drugs, which you can buy at supermarkets. Make sure you throw these away immediately after use.
- If you have been using regularly, consider whether now is really the best time for you to stop using. If you are likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms, you might want to try using less instead of stopping completely. Also consider whether you are staying in the right environment to stop use – will you be safe and supported?
- Remember, if you take alcohol or other drugs, and you or someone around you becomes unwell, you can still access medical and emergency services. Health services across Aotearoa have protocols in place to keep you safe from COVID-19 while you are receiving treatment – so if you need help, reach out.