Times of heightened stress, such as experiencing financial instability or other significant disruptions to daily life may initiate or exacerbate tendencies to use substances to cope. With the immediate and ripple effects of COVID-19, it has been projected that substance misuse and other behavioural issues will become common coping mechanisms. Countries will need to be particularly responsive to how increased risks of substance misuse and addiction may impact the way gambling prevention and treatment programs are designed and offered.
This was the sentiment of Michael Egerer, a Vice-chair of the Finnish Association for Alcohol, Drug and Gambling Research at the University of Helsinki, Finland, speaking at a webinar organised by the International Association of ATOD Research Associations (ICARA) in partnership with the UJ Department of Psychology.
The webinar held on Monday, 17 May 2021 was themed Substance Use and Gambling in Finland During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prof Egerer called for attention to mental health consequences of the pandemic. While gambling may be impacted in many ways during COVID-19 (closing of casinos and cessation of sports may limit certain forms of gambling), internet gambling remains available, and may potentially be among the health hazards affected by the ongoing crisis and its aftermath. Public prevention efforts and systematic research data collection are warranted.
The webinar series was curated with recent evidence from Finland that may help the globe to make informed decisions regarding the relationship between gambling harm, substance misuse, and addiction during COVID-19.
The webinar series will run until August 2021.