Covid highs and lows: alcohol deaths reach new levels in lockdown, study reveals

  • 5,460 alcohol-related deaths recorded in England and Wales between January and September of last year
  • Increase in activity on dark net drug markets seen during lockdown, according to EMCDDA
  • Purchase of party drugs such as MDMA and ketamine plummets with increase in wholesale prices of heroin and cocaine

Consumption of alcohol has increased across the UK during the pandemic as people stuck at home turning to drink. 

Between January and September, 5,460 alcohol-related deaths were recorded in England and Wales. This figure is 16% higher than those same months in 2019. 

With pubs and nightclubs shut, people are turning to supermarkets to satisfy their alcohol craving. 

A study conducted by the Institute of Alcohol Studies in December found a 40% increase in alcohol purchase from supermarkets last year.   

Business marketing student Kiara says she drinks a lot more during the week than she normally would because of lockdown.  

She says that four out of five times, she drinks alone.  

Kiara, 21, said: “Half of it is boredom. There’s only so much TV, there’s only so many hobbies you can try.” 

In the second lockdown, Kiara, was affected by feelings of anxiety and low mood, which further exacerbated her drinking. 

She said: “I was just trying to do something to pick me up.” 

The pandemic also appears to have led to an increase in online drug purchasing.  

A recent report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found an overall increase in activity on three popular darknet drug markets since the beginning of 2020, mainly related to cannabis products.  

Lockdown has seen an increase in activity on popular darknet drug markets, mainly related to cannabis products.
Increase in activity on darknet drug markets has been seen in lockdown, mainly related to
cannabis products                                                                              Image: Connie Enzler

However, demand for party drugs such as MDMA and ketamine has plummeted. Wholesale prices of heroin and cocaine across the UK have also substantially increased since the start of the pandemic. 

First year student Jess, 18, also noticed a rise in her drinking in lockdown. Before the pandemic, she would have half a bottle of vodka in one night, whereas now she consumes up to one full bottle.  

She said: ”It almost feels like things will be like this forever, so it’s all about trying to find ways around it. People have lost hope, they’ve stopped caring if they get caught or fined, everyone’s just numb.” 

She says her mother expressed concern about her drinking when she was home for Christmas, despite her having reduced her consumption around her family. 

Jess finds that it has been riskier to get hold of drugs such as cocaine and ketamine because she feels that she had to put herself in more dangerous situations to purchase them and would often be  alone with a dealer.

As a result, she has replaced drugs with alcohol. 

Jess is in therapy for mental health issues but has not mentioned her drinking to her councillor, although she says she plans to do so if it becomes debilitating. 

Anyone concerned about their own or a loved one’s consumption of drugs or alcohol should visit the Recovery helpline website or call 0203 553 0324.