Manitoba’s alcohol sales have seen a notable increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it could be because people are turning to substance use as a coping mechanism.

According to a Nanos study, 25 per cent of Canadians said they are drinking more while at home during the pandemic. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is also seeing an increase, reporting a 25 per cent spike in sales during the outbreak.

Denisa Gavan-Koop, co-director of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, said these numbers are concerning.

She noted that people are going through a stressful time as they deal with financial difficulties and anxiety, adding that there’s also been a blurring between personal and professional lives as people work from home.

“We do know that when individuals do feel under stress, people do sometimes use certain substances in coping,” she said.

Gavan-Koop said people may be experiencing a substance-use problem if they are using substances to cope with stress, despite any consequences that may come with the drinking.

“That’s entering into that zone where we encourage folks to seek out support and help,” she said.

To assess how much they should be drinking, Gavan-Koop recommends people use the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction’s low-risk drinking guidelines. These suggest about 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than two drinks a day most days, and 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than three drinks a day.

“We do advise that there should be non-drinking days as well,” she said.

“So if folks go above this low-drink guideline, then they’re into that zone where we’re encouraging people to seek out support and services.”

With no end to the pandemic in sight, Gavan-Koop encourages those who need it to reach out to the Manitoba Addictions helpline or use the AbilitiCBT online resource.

“We encourage people when they are feeling that they need to seek out support that they do find the resources and the community that help them,” she said.

- With files from CTV’s Katherine Dow.