New campaign seeks support for addicts’ families

Tuesday 2nd July 2019

A campaign highlighting the hidden contribution of the families of individuals struggling with addiction was launched today by Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs.

In 2017, 934 Scots died as a result of drugs and it’s predicted the next round of statistics will show a ‘significant increase’.

#BehindTheNumbers is Scottish Families’ response to these statistics – a campaign urging greater support and involvement of families in addiction services.

Two short films have been released in which Karen and Sandra share their experiences as mothers supporting a child struggling with drug addiction.

Both share compelling accounts of being excluded from their loved ones’ treatment and care – an all-too-common occurrence that ‘increases the risk of harm and death’, according to Scottish Families.

Speaking to healthandcare.scot, the chief executive of Scottish Families, Justina Murray, says:

“We know families are keen to get involved – they want to work in partnership with services and in other health areas services would of course work in partnership with carers, so it doesn’t make any sense at all that in addiction services there wouldn’t be that connection.

“One of the issues is the stigma that comes with addiction, and services can sometimes buy into that narrative that the family is in some way to blame – people suffering with addiction themselves can even buy into that because then they don’t need to take responsibility.

“Services can be frightened to involve the families – but we have said that even as a minimum they could be directed to contact Scottish Families and access support through us.

“Fears about GDPR can stop families being involved, but there are no data breaches if services take in information from families on how an individual is doing.”

When it comes to the stigma that often comes with addiction, Ms Murray says: “I do think there has been progress, but it’s a slow process.

“We work a lot across mental health as well and when you look at campaigns like the SeeMe campaign, focused on it being okay not to be okay, there is a growing recognition of the importance of it and that we all have mental health.

“But I think we are way behind that in terms of addiction – we are on the same path as mental health but not as far forward.

“We also need to challenge the stigma and ask why people feel they need to judge and stigmatise – to look at what’s causing that rather than just saying to people they can’t do that. We need to get people talking – most families who contact us for support have never spoken to anyone about addiction before.

“We need to encourage a national conversation about addiction, to break down some of those barriers.”

Given the myriad ways in which addiction can affect someone’s life – be that financial, family relationships and related health problems – the need for support across a whole range of life is well-known.

 

Calls for action on drug-related deaths have been gaining momentum in recent months. In March, John Finnie, a Green MSP, called for a statutory inquiry into the ‘public health crisis’ of drugs deaths in Scotland.

Campaigners have also urged the UK Government to consider plans to establish of a safe drug consumption facility in Glasgow.

Advocates stress setting up such a facility would provide an opportunity to save lives and help addicts access recovery services.

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss wrote to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, in June, stating: “Drug policy at Westminster is failing the people who need the most help.

“There is cross-party consensus for action on this problem, and plans for a facility in Glasgow have been unanimously backed by councillors.

“…It’s clear to me, and many others – including drug charities and former drug users – that the status quo is failing to adequately address the current problems of drug injecting. With the will of the Home Office we can do something different and offer some hope to those whose lives have been blighted by drug addiction.”