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KIU Mental Health: Steer Clear of Substance Use During Lockdown


With the imposition of a total lockdown by President Yoweri Museveni on June 18 following the ineffectiveness of the partial lockdown which was imposed a week earlier, more people are at risk of resorting to substance use to reduce the stress that come with the various restrictions put in place.

James Kanyaruju, a driver, says he does not know what to do with his time now that he can no longer drive his boss to and from work and also run errands for him since he is not an essential worker.

Like Kanyaruju, many people find themselves with a lot of time to spare and the notion of staying in the house all day long is unappealing, and according to the US National Library of Medicine, they could resort to using substances like alcohol, marijuana, khat, heroine, cigarettes and crack cocaine to offset the stress that comes with the lockdown.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), under no circumstances should people use any type of substance as a means of preventing or treating COVID-19 infection.

 Substance use will not protect from COVID-19. Different target groups have a responsibility to steer clear of substance use throughout this pandemic and beyond, and to help others do the same, and get the help they need, in case they are using substances or suffering from substance use disorders.

Drugs are by no means a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom or social isolation and substances has adverse effects including the following;

1.    Substance use can increase your risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection through shared objects (e.g. tableware, waterpipes for smoking, and syringes), and neglecting health-protective measures like hand hygiene, respiratory etiquettes and physical distancing.

2.    Substance use can also result in worse outcomes from COVID-19. For example, smoking and inhaling substances can reduce lung function and increase vulnerability to infections.

3.    People with substance use disorders are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and worse treatment outcomes because they are more likely to have a higher prevalence of co-morbid health conditions (e.g. mental disorders, HIV, TB, hepatitis, cardiovascular, liver, respiratory and kidney diseases) and often share other risk factors, such as under/malnutrition, physical inactivity, alcohol and tobacco use.

So, avoid using substances will not solve any problem for you other than causing more health, physical and mental problems that may drastically erode your wellbeing.

Next week, we shall look at alternative ways or things that you can do to spend your time in the lockdown productively.

Image: The Conversation