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COVID-19 is amplifying the relationship between mental health and substance use

A new Leger poll commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction highlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19-related stressors on people with pre-existing substance use disorders or mental illness.

The survey of more than 4,000 Canadian residents found that respondents with past and current mental health concerns indicated both increased and more problematic substance use.

Key findings:

  • Up to one in two individuals with an existing substance use disorder reported having moderately severe to severe symptoms of depression since March 2020.
  • Up to one in two respondents with current mental health symptoms who use cannabis reported increased use, compared to two in five in the general population.
  • One in three who use alcohol reported increased use, while one in five reported problematic (high risk) use.
  • Moderate and severe anxiety symptoms were highest among respondents with lifetime substance use disorder and lifetime mental health diagnoses.
  • Respondents’ top stressors were their financial situation (14%), social isolation (12%), and the health of family members (11%).