Stress relief, not in a bottle

Stress can cause people to reach for alcohol, but that can lead to more problems.

“It’s a very stressful time for people at the moment … and a lot of people do reach for alcohol to solve that,” Ashburton Community Alcohol and Drug Service (Acads) general manager Chris Clark says.

“Alcohol by far is still our most widely used drug of choice,” Mrs Clark said, of those seeking help through the agency.

“And probably alcohol by far causes the most problems.”

Among them increased domestic violence incidents, general health deterioration, mental health and dependency issues.

Chris Clark

Mrs Clark, who along with agency staff were working from their homes under lockdown restrictions, said family bubbles were not easy for everyone.

After the last lockdown there was an increase in the number of people seeking help for drug dependency, she said.

And given record alcohol sales nationwide, it was believed this time would be no different.

“We’re presuming because of the sales of alcohol at the moment there could be issues coming our way in the near future too,” Mrs Clark said.

“I think that the anxiety levels are higher this time than they were last time, and a lot of people do reach for alcohol to solve that,” she said.

“And when people are stressed they tend to drink more but that can lead to more problems.

“There is a lot of pressure on the financial side of things that come into it after a lockdown as well.

“Families being all together in one house, it’s stressful on mums trying to handle kids, so yeah it’s not an easy time for people.”

Police did refer people to the agency if they had concerns about them, but it was up to those people if they wanted to take up counselling.

“We see the people who want help, and that’s usually the tip of the iceberg really,” she said.

It could sometimes lead to helping others inside family groups, but that was not a given.

“It is a stressful time for people so we are trying to put the messages out there for people to be kind to themselves, take care, look after their own wellbeing.”

While alcohol, followed by cannabis, were the most common drugs used by people seeking help through the Ashburton agency, wastewater testing in the Ashburton catchment had picked up traces of methamphetamine and MDMA and a few people had presented to Acads for help.

Those drugs plus cocaine were among the seven drugs tested for regularly in Ashburton’s wastewater system since 2018.

In the first three months of this year Ashburton’s drug use detection showed levels of methamphetamine and MDMA.

National Drug Intelligence Bureau manager Detective Inspector Blair MacDonald said the wastewater testing programme included 46 testing sites nationwide, covering up to 75 percent of the total population.

“Ashburton (tested every two months) was added to the national wastewater testing programme in November 2018, when the pilot programme was extended to include wider national locations.”

Acads is offering phone counselling to people until face to face counselling can resume at Alert Level 2.

Anyone wanting help – for themselves or others – can contact the agency by phone (308 1270), or through the website (