Increasing numbers of people are turning to drink and drugs to cope with the stress and anxiety of the cost of living crisis, a charity has warned.
A YouGov poll commissioned by addiction charity The Forward Trust has revealed a sharp increase in addiction in the past eight months, since the start of the deepening cost of living crisis.
Nearly a third (32%) of the 2,191 adults polled said they had either relapsed into addiction or knew someone close to them who had relapsed.
The cost of living crisis was considered the most significant trigger for anxiety, stress, and trauma by those reporting addiction relapse – according to 61% of respondents.
The poll was published to coincide with Addiction Awareness Week last week (30 October to 6 November).
It is also connected to a ‘Taking Action on Addiction’ campaign, which has called for addiction to be treated as a serious mental health condition and for increased access to treatment, support and care for anyone affected, including families and children.
Cost of living crisis
The campaign is urging ministers to fully to commit to the increase to addiction treatment spending approved by the government as part of its ten-year drug strategy, From harm to hope, published in 2021 in response to the Dame Carol Black independent review of illicit drugs.
The Forward Trust argued its research, which has run for three consecutive years, has revealed that economic uncertainty and rising inflation has created a downward spiral of addiction after the pandemic. The period of the pandemic itself led to addiction levels growing significantly.
Some 6% of respondents, or the equivalent of 2.1 million people when extrapolated across the country, said they had increased the amount they are drinking since the cost of living crisis began, the charity has said.
A quarter of those who have increased their alcohol intake had also reported problems as a result – ranging from lack of sleep through to work problems and increased stress.
This 6% increase will exacerbate already spiralling levels of alcohol harm across the UK, the charity warned, adding that alcohol-specific deaths are at their highest since records began.
The charity also highlighted recent research by academics at Sheffield University that suggested shifts in alcohol consumption during the pandemic could lead to thousands of extra deaths in England.
Forward Trust chief executive Mike Trace said: “Addiction is a serious mental health condition that can trap individuals, break up families, increase health, social and crime problems, and reduce economic activity.
“Addiction is deeply connected to other mental health conditions and so it is no surprise to see that whilst people grapple with the anxiety and stress of a cost of living crisis they are reporting relapse or turning to drinking, drugs or gambling.”