WATERLOO -- The Kitchener-Waterloo chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (K-W A.A.) says they are dealing with an influx of people reaching out for help, hoping to tame a pandemic induced addiction.

A member of Alcoholics Anonymous KW, who wishes to remain anonymous, told CTV News they noticed a rise in calls for help when the pandemic first began and that demand continues to increase.

"We’re always making new friends," he said.

The member adds there has been an increase of people who find themselves at their lowest over the last two years.

"Ultimately, most of us get to these programs through a bottom," he said. "I was at meeting only recently where a woman mentioned that she only came to know her bottom through Covid, about how the current situation exacerbated her issues."

Results of a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute states "[47 per cent] of Canadians say alcohol abuse is a problem among their social circles while three-in-ten say the same of drug abuse."

The University of Guelph also recently released the results of a study done in 2020 that proves drugs and alcohol aren't the only crutches being leaned on.

The study titled 'Pandemic caused distress sparks rise in addictive behaviours', used a sample size of information from nearly 1,500 participants in 2020.

"Addictive behaviour such as drinking, [shopping], gaming and gambling increased", study lead, and professor at the University of Guelph’s Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, Sunghwan Yi said.

Yi says the study also found that as public health measures increased, so did reports of distress. At the same time, frequency in respondents' addictive behaviour also rose by about 20 per cent.

"People, when they are extremely distressed cannot really maintain their focus," Yi added.

Mental Health experts agree, distress can push people towards distractive activities, like shopping, video gaming or drinking in order to forget the root of the stress.

Wilfrid Laurier University faculty of social work assistant professor Bill O’Leary says those same activities can lead to addictive behaviors, sometimes without realizing it.

"For some people it could be as simple as starting out with an occasional evening drink with dinner. You have two drinks or maybe it’s more than that and it’s just reducing stress in your own way, and these things maybe get away from someone," O’Leary said.

Yi said some newly acquired bad behaviors have lingered for study participants even after lockdowns concluded.

"Day-to-day routines will keep stress levels, typically for most people, down," O’Leary added, referencing good routines such as physical activity or a daily phone call with a loved one.

K-W A.A. says they've gone roughly 10 times over their initial budget in order to keep up with rising demand but also say support will always be available.

"At the end of the day, I believe there’s always people there willing to help. It's never as dark as it seems and you've just got to put your handout for somebody to grab it," the member said.

Mental health experts say the best way to deal with an addiction is to talk to someone. Just because you may be physically isolating at home, doesn't mean you have to socially isolate yourself from others.

Professional help for anyone experiencing addiction be accessed through the following organizations, amongst others:

Alcoholics Anonymous

- 519-742-6183

- https://kwaa.ca/

Canadian Mental Health Association

- 1-844-437-3247

- https://cmhaww.ca/

- www.here247.ca

Canadian Centre for Addictions

- 1-855-939-1009

- https://canadiancentreforaddictions.org/


- 1-866-531-2600

- https://www.connexontario.ca/en-ca/

Distress and Crisis Ontario

- https://www.dcontario.org/ (online chat available)