SAULT STE. MARIE -- Canadians are consuming more alcohol to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

According to the survey, 25 per cent of Canadians aged 35-54 have increased their drinking.

Those aged 18-34 aren't far behind, with 21 per cent drinking more often.

"That's obviously concerning for what can come from the future," said Shannen Scott, an addiction counsellor in Sault Ste. Marie. "When we return back to a state of normal, what it used to be, I can definitely see an influx of referrals."

Scott is worried about how the pandemic is affecting resources people have access to.

"Some of them have really had to change how they operate if they still are able to," said Scott. "People aren't able to go to their AA meetings and resources that they used to have just aren't there anymore and it's critical for them."

The survey also asked participants to list reasons as to why they're drinking more.

"What many are saying is that their schedule has been disrupted. It was fairly expected to see that a lot of them were feeling anxious or bored," said Dr. Catharine Paradis, lead researcher at the CCSA.

Paradis said typically, Canadians drink for leisure, in order to break up the workweek from their days off.

With many staying home in northern Ontario and across the country, she said those boundaries have become blurred.

"No one really knows what is a Tuesday or a Friday anymore, or what is day or night," said Paradis. "That might make it more tempting to drink than usual."

Paradis said she's concerned many who've increased drinking will struggle to lower their alcohol consumption, post-COVID-19.

"Don't underestimate the addictive nature of alcohol," Paradis warns. "It can be extremely difficult to adjust your habits after continuous weeks of drinking."