Addictions awareness should be amplified along with the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Nunavut.

With the explosion of cases in Nunavut, which may take weeks to fully trace and isolate, the territory is in the midst of another lockdown. Effective last week, the tightening health restrictions have closed schools and businesses, limited the number of people who can gather in one place and restricted travel.

What can’t be stopped with a health order, unfortunately, are addictions. Despite the ever-changing circumstances in a Covid-dominated world, addictions will remain, and, unfortunately, be exacerbated by lockdowns and restrictions.

With cases of the virus surging in the Kivalliq region and indications of community spread in at least one instance, imposing territory-wide restrictions was the right decision, without a doubt. There should be no questioning that, and everyone should continue to take those orders very seriously.

There are also studies from across Canada showing negative side effects associated with these health restrictions. There are not many available studies or statistics specifically from Nunavut, but the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions released a study earlier in the year indicating that 25 per cent of polled Canadians were drinking more since the start of the pandemic. The most common reasons for drinking were a lack of a regular schedule, boredom and stress.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) also released a report in late October showing that efforts to minimize the effects of Covid-19 had resulted in the deteriorating health of Canadians – a large number of whom were turning to drugs, alcohol and tobacco to deal with the stress of the pandemic. Surveys from Statistics Canada have indicated nearly one in five Canadians was drinking more along with increases in tobacco and cannabis use.

Given the current situation with Covid-19 in our territory, there will be no stopping the harsh but necessary health restrictions to save lives, even if it temporarily worsens addictions. This means now, more than ever, those afflicted with addictions will need the help of their community.

Cambridge Bay residents are already circulating on online petition to halt liquor imports into the community.

Even though Nunavut has been able to secure federal funding to get an addictions treatment centre in Iqaluit, which will be built in five years, hurdles to effective treatment remain.

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell says that treatment facility is about 20 years too late and the territory is lacking in after-care programs.

Laurel McCorriston, executive director of the Uquutaq Society, says lack of access to housing will prevent some addicts from getting treatment in the south. She echoed Bell’s statement on a lack of services upon return.

Bell also makes it abundantly clear that only those who truly want to get better will do so.

With tensions and the stresses of the pandemic mounting, it will only be harder for those already affected by addiction to get the help they need. Nunavummiut will need to look out for each others’ health and wellbeing to weather the storm.

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