Lockdown and Drugs

Lockdown and Drug Use: Saying ‘No’ is tough

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Lockdown and DrugsAn annual study of global drug-use trends, says Covid-19 has left millions stuck indoors, anxious and bored. This change of lifestyle has abruptly turned many people to consume psychoactive substances, and fly high into the blue skies.

Nazarul Islam

Last Friday, I asked my commuter friend Robyn, how she had been going through her days in lockdown. True to her character she replied: “I’ve smoked a truly ungodly amount of weed.”

Today’s updated report has suggested that she is certainly not alone, deep into her commitment. In terms of the latest Global Drug Survey, an annual study of global drug-use trends, says Covid-19 has left millions stuck indoors, anxious and bored. This change of lifestyle has abruptly turned many people to consume psychoactive substances, and fly high into the blue skies.

It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. And, is it difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless? Again, is it difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help? Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Miami’s famous West Memorial (Hospital) be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had “brought it on themselves?

Ms. Robyn’s drug of choice has seen its biggest rise in consumption. According to the online survey, which polled some 55,000 people in 11 mostly rich countries, almost two in five respondents have increased their use of cannabis since the start of the pandemic.

Far away in the outback—Australia has also seen the greatest increase, at 49%, with America (46%) and Britain (44%), following closely behind one another. Respondents in the online survey have largely ascribed their greater use of the drug to the extra free time and boredom of lockdowns.

However, reports I have shared just now, state that the pre-existing mental-health conditions of users have  also played a role: among those with mental illnesses who upped their toking, 41% cited stress and 38% cited depression (among cannabis users without those conditions, the figures were 20% and 15%, respectively). Not surprisingly, respondents in countries hit hard by the pandemic, such as the US, were more likely to admit they got stoned more often because they were depressed.

And, here is surprise from the workplace grapevine—Party drugs, meanwhile, have fallen out of favor, in large part because of the abrupt disappearance of nightclubs and festivals, as well as the difficulty of meeting dealers during lockdown. This survey found out that ecstasy usage was down by 41%, while cocaine was down by 38% and ketamine by 34%.

Only few seem to have missed their habits. Nearly a third of cocaine users said their mental health was better as a result of taking less of the stuff; a quarter of ecstasy enthusiasts said the same. Around two-fifths of those who used one or other drug said they didn’t feel like taking them during a pandemic.

Will these changes in drug habits outlast the pandemic, remains to be seen, but illegal party drugs are reportedly bouncing back when nightclubs do reopen and festivals resume operations? For now, experts have warned against self-medicating with cannabis. Sharing drugs can spread the virus, and heavy smoking can increase the risk of complications from covid-19.

The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.

Robyn had once shared: “I’ve done everything. All of it – You think it, I’ve done it. All the things you never dared, all the things you dream about, all the things you were curious about and then forgot because you knew you never would. I did ’em, I did ’em yesterday while the world kept distancing socially.”

She likes to ask others in her commute: “What about you? When’s it gonna be your turn?”

Perhaps Ms. Robyn should avoid passing her spiffs around.

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The Bengal-born writer is a senior educationist settled in USA. He writes regularly for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.

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