Rehab centres concerned after spike in recovering alcoholics relapsing during lockdown

A spike in alcoholics needing help through COVID-19, with many relapsing during lockdown, has prompted calls for more funding to deal with the increase in people seeking help. 

Some alcoholics who relapsed during lockdown say they've been ignored with no extra help offered.

It comes as a rehab centre says the rebranding of Dry July to "Dry-ish" July is harmful.

Stella Hart was sober for almost a year before lockdown began at the end of March. Worried she'd relapse she tried to get help but nobody called her back.

"Already that thought was placed in my alcoholic mind that, I might pick up a drink," Hart told Newshub.   

She tried to seek help before lockdown but nothing was available to her. 

She relapsed and started drinking again. 

"My health went on a very severe decline through COVID, physically, mentally," Hart said.  

Anaru Anderson wanted help in lockdown too but he couldn't get it.

"There was no support, trying to do phone calls and messages, but it just wasn't cutting it. I became isolated," Anderson told Newshub 

Janet Thompson, from the Retreat Rehab Centre told Newshub an alcoholic or an addict left in their own company is in very very bad company. 

There aren't any official figures but detox clinics say many addicts relapsed in lockdown.

"There's been a huge increase in people seeking help," Thompson said. 

Rachel Scaife, Haven project manager told Newshub on average the centre sees about 100 visitors through over the weekend, since lockdown they are seeing about 300 plus people. 

It's not just a problem in New Zealand, alcohol sales jumped almost 70 per cent in the UK in March.

An editorial in the British Medical Journal said without preperation "we will see the toll of increased alcohol harm for a generation.

But the New Zealand Government hasn't announced any additional help for detox services, and their need comes as some in the sector says the usually helpful Dry July may this year actually be harmful.

"Saying it's dry-ish July kind of seems to say that it's okay to use alcohol to help you get through stressful times," Thompson says.  

Dry July CEO Brett MacDonald declined an interviewed but in a statement said the change to 'Dry-ish' was to "encourage more people to get involved".

Both Stella Hart and and Anaru Anderson will be having a dry July, They've been sober for two months now. Both are crossing their fingers we don't go back into lockdown.