EDMONTON -- As months of self-isolation and physical distancing take their toll, liquor and cannabis are being consumed "more frequently" during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to health officials.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, said a recent Canada-wide survey indicated those who drink alcohol have been drinking it more often during the pandemic — and that's true of Albertans as well.

"With some of the sales numbers from AGLC indicating an increase in sales during the last few months when there's been a shutdown, there are concerns that perhaps increased consumption…could potentially set people up for challenges as we start opening back up," she said.

Hinshaw said there's help available to anyone who has increased their pot and liquor intake during the last few months.

But the head of the largest retailer of alcohol and cannabis in Alberta says he doesn't think consumption has changed due to COVID-19, it's just buying habits that are different.

"I think actually, alcohol consumption isn't really changed that much," said CEO James Burns. "So people who normally have a couple beers or a glass of wine at a bar after work, you have to buy and take home."

According to Alcanna, all its liquor and cannabis in the province saw "significantly" higher than normal sales in the last three weeks of March 2020, near the start of the pandemic.

"This 'stockpiling' buying subsided once customers were assured by provincial and state governments that liquor and cannabis stores were being classified as essential services and would remain open," the company said.

Same-store liquor sales are still up about 12 per cent over last year for the first two months of the second quarter, Alcanna said.

A psychologist says people will always turn to substances to combat the stress of something like a global pandemic.

But people should not and likely do not feel any stigma right now for needing an outlet, as long as it doesn't consume them, according to Dr. Ganz Ferrance.

"If you see that things are getting out of hand or have increased significant, then it's definitely a good idea to talk to somebody, reach out, talk to an addictions person," he said.

The key, he says, is knowing when you've crossed the line of relying too much on liquor or cannabis and realizing that help is just a phone call away.

For a complete list of resources, visit the Alcohol and COVID-19 page on Alberta Health Services' website.

With a report from CTV Edmonton's David Ewasuk