Climate change contributing to harmful substance use / Les changements climatiques contribuent à l’utilisation problématique de substances

By Francis Vergunst, Helen Berry, Kelton Minor and Nicholas Chadi, published in Healthy Debate, February 14, 2023

The pace and extent of climate change means that weather-related disasters are constantly happening somewhere in the world. Last year, the U.S. experienced devastating wildfires; Europe suffered record-breaking heatwaves, killing more than 20,000 people; and Australia entered its fourth back-to-back La Niña, leaving thousands homeless from floods.

Such disasters spawn blanketing stress and take a toll on mental health and wellbeing. People try their best to cope and, sometimes, coping means seeking new or increased comfort and escape in alcohol, tobacco, nonmedical prescription drug use or other psychoactive substances.

The inability to cope with the effects of worsening weather-related disasters is just one of many roads connecting climate change to harmful substance use. In a study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, we map out these main roads and backroads to show how climate change can increase the risk of harmful substance use and make people more vulnerable to relapse.

Substance-use disorders already have enormous costs for individuals and society. They disrupt education and employment; increase accidents and crime; undermine social relationships and family functioning; and contribute to more than 16 million deaths each year. And many more people use substances at harmful levels that do not meet criteria for formal disorders. (Full article)

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