© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2024

Dealing with addiction in lockdown

Nikki Carroll
Odyssey House
Odyssey House logo  Odyssey House, Christchurch

When New Zealand closed its doors late March, as part of the COVID-19 Level 4 lockdown, there were people struggling with drug, alcohol or gambling issues who needed to make life-changing decisions.

Harm reduction projects adviser for NZ Drug Foundation, Samuel Andrews, said lockdown was a big challenge for people wanting to maintain recovery or continue their treatment journey.

“It’s really disruptive if one of your strategies is getting a coffee with a friend down the road if you’re having a bad day.”

Andrews believes the biggest challenge post lockdown will be how to support people who have developed patterns of harmful use during Levels 3 and 4.

Southern team practice leader for Problem Gambling Foundation, Karena Quigley, said some of their clients had been in touch prior to lockdown asking for extra support.

“Others have found it a reprieve, [using this time] for clearing their heads and making changes.”

Quigley is expecting an influx of people looking for support in coming weeks, but one of her biggest concerns is when the casinos start advertising again.

“People will feel like they have managed to control [their addiction] so may be at greater risk [than usual].”

PGF logo Problem Gambling Foundation NZ


Alcoholics Anonymous groups planned how their support network would work during Level 4, and by lockdown AA had information on their website regarding Zoom meetings.

Within a matter of days there were 220 active online groups, in some instances getting close to 100 people per meeting.

Board member and national technical support for AA, Martin Giles, said the organisation’s website visitor numbers went from 500 a day to 1200 a day, with over half of these showing as new users.

“[This indicates] people were thinking about and looking for other support methods [to maintain their wellbeing].”

A fellowship member of Narcotics Anonymous said the organisation had also been amazed by the impact of online meetings.

NA Zoom groups have had 70 to 80 people regularly attending, whereas face-to-face meetings would have about 20.

“Newcomers are still joining the online meetings, but the challenge for some [of the regulars] is the lack of personal contact.”

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Christchurch Central Services manager at Odyssey House, Theresa Schutt, said they continued to operate as detox support for the 20 residents they had when lockdown started, but could only consider new admissions from Level 3.

Schutt believes some addicts may have been using the lockdown as a form of residential detox as referrals had dropped off, from up to 15 per day to 1 per day.

However, with New Zealand now in Level 3 she thinks those referral numbers will skyrocket.



If you or someone you know requires addiction support please contact the following:

Drug Help Foundation
Alcohol Drug Helpline     0800 787 797
Problem Gambling Foundation      0800 664 262
Alcoholics Anonymous           0800 229 6757
Narcotics Anonymous            0800 628 632