The demand for help to deal with addictions grew by 15% in the pandemic

Archive photo of a course taught by Yrichen, along with addiction care, training is another purpose of this type of entity. / C7

The economic crisis has led to new consumption. 40% of addiction resource users live in extreme poverty

Carmen Delia Aranda

The socioeconomic crisis generated by the pandemic has been a good breeding ground for accessing new addictions and aggravating pre-existing ones. This is stated by the director of the Fundación Canaria Yrichen, Juan José Pérez, an organization that is part of the Association of Canary Addiction Entities (AECAD) that recently presented a report that summarizes the impact of the pandemic on consumption habits in terms of addictions in the Canary Islands.

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Poverty and inequality -the lack of one's own means to subsist, to have a home and to take care of one's physical and mental health- and addictions feed off each other. These problems lead to addictions and addictions lead to these problems", says Pérez, who understands that the socioeconomic precariousness suffered by the Canarian population in the last two years has been appreciated in a
increase in users seeking support dependency care entities.

“We have calculated that, with the pandemic, the demand for resources has increased by between 15 and 20%”, affirms the director of Yrichen, who recognizes that, with the current means, they are overwhelmed to attend to these people. “The waiting list has increased. There are more requests for help and the attention to those that were already in process has slowed down. We are serving more people with the same resources that we had before the pandemic," laments the coordinator of the veteran Gran Canaria foundation.

new addictions

In addition, he points out that
the health crisis has led to the emergence of new addictions, such as the chronic and unhealthy use of addictive drugs; anxiolytics, antidepressants and tranquilizers. "A chronic and pharmacological response is being given to problems that are mainly social," says Pérez.

Behavioral addictions have also gained strength in recent years related to the abuse of technologies and pathological virtual gambling.

In any case,
the new addictive behaviors that have emerged with the pandemic have mainly been linked to the chronification of the use of psychotropic drugs and the increase in alcohol-related problems.

The document recently presented by the AECAD -made up of Proyecto Hombre-Fundación Canaria Cesica, the associations Social Integration Quality of Life, San Miguel Youth Cooperation, Antad and the Palmera Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Addiction, in addition to Yrichen- determined that
80% of the people who turn to these organizations for help are men, often between 35 and 55 years old. The majority, 75%, do not have a job and survive thanks to social benefits or have no income at all. In fact, Pérez underlines, 40% of these people suffer from extreme poverty. An economic situation that has worsened during the pandemic for 30% of the users consulted.

In addition, 60% of the 1,255 people surveyed live with their family, while 25% live alone.

Prevalence of consumption

With the pandemic and the economic crisis, most of the people surveyed have maintained their consumption habits, although 20% have added or changed the substance consumed.

Heroin (28%), cocaine (23%), alcohol (21.7) and cannabis (19%) are, in that order, the substances most used among users of these resources.

Another worrying element is that 16% of the people surveyed who have a problem of addiction or substance abuse also admit to having problems with
behavioral or non-substance addiction.

In the report, the AECAD calls on the authorities so that the
addictions are considered a priority in public health in the Canary Islandsespecially given the increase in consultations and requests for help from people whom the pandemic has put in an extreme situation in the field of mental health.

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