Drug-related harms and deaths do not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, gender, creed, wealth or socioeconomic status. Every day they continue to impact families across Australia and the rest of the world. Stigma is associated with drug use and can often prevent families from seeking support while increasing the risk of families losing those they care for to drugs.
Although within recent years the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 shows a decline in the use of some illegal drugs - including methamphetamines, hallucinogens and synthetic cannabinoids – there was an increase in the number of people impacted by drug-related incidents in 2016. Without family and peer support, those using drugs are more vulnerable and susceptible to harm. Often families play a crucial part in the treatment and recovery of individuals who use alcohol and other drugs in a harmful way.
But supporting a family member or friend who has a dependence on drugs or alcohol isn't easy and can often be a difficult and upsetting process for families. This is why it is crucial for families to be aware that support and assistance is available.
Family Drug Support
Family Drug Support (FDS) is a caring, non-religious and non-judgemental organisation that provides support and assistance to families throughout Australia who are dealing with a family member who is using drugs.
FDS supports families in a way that strengthens relationships and achieves positive outcomes by providing:
1. A 24/7 support line for families experiencing the drug use of a family member or friend
2. Peer support groups for families
3. The Stepping Stones to Success group program for families
4. Other courses and resources
FDS is primarily made up of volunteers who have first-hand experience of the trauma and chaos of having family members with drug dependency. They have travelled the same road.
Why is it important?
According to research commissioned by FDS, half of all people would hide a family member's drug or alcohol use from their own friends. Tony Trimingham founder and CEO of FDS believes that this shame stops family members from seeking the help they need.
"My concern is that we are seeing overdose deaths increase each year and people hiding what is happening only increases the risk that families could lose those they care for to drugs," explains Tony.
"Through our work we aim to de-stigmatise drug and alcohol problems and reinforce the message that drug-related harms and deaths do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, money or any other factors and most importantly, that support and assistance is available."
The FDS Support Group Evaluation show that drug dependence takes a substantial toll on families, creating anger conflict and shame. It can destroy healthy family dynamics, as conflict escalates and the focus of family attention is on stopping and hiding drug use. As a consequence of stress and anxiety, parents and family members can often develop mental health and physical problems, including very valid fears for the life and wellbeing of the person using drugs.
While support services like FDS cannot make drug use go away, they can have positive impacts on family members by helping them cope more effectively with the challenge of drug use within the family. Support groups:
Provide knowledge about drugs, dependence and treatment
De-stigmatise the experience and reduce self-blame
Help with boundary setting
Reduce conflict in families
Provide mutual support
Allow for acceptance
Work from the collective wisdom of the families and friends attending
Help support 'effective communication'
Provide education for the family member or friend
FDS online interactive resource
Funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health through the National Ice Action Strategy and in collaboration with Readymade Productions and FDS staff and volunteers, Australia's first interactive online resource designed specifically to support families struggling to deal with drug and alcohol use – has been launched.
The online resource centres on the documentary film of a family support group, and will be of particular benefit to families in regional and rural communities who don't have ready access to support group meetings. The resource is designed to help families and friends of people using drugs and alcohol to become more resilient and better cope on their journey with the user.
It provides different support for different circumstances. The new resource, together with the FDS' 24/7 telephone support line, will help ensure every family can access support when they need it.
FDS is available to everyone. From those who suspect a family member or friend may be on the verge of alcohol or drug dependency, to those who have been silent about drug use within the family for many years, to families who are suffering bereavement.
FDS believes that by helping families of drug users, they are ultimately helping the user. FDS CEO Tony had no help when he tragically lost his son Damien to a heroin overdose – but now there is somewhere for families to turn to. This is FDS' greatest legacy.
Are drugs a problem for someone you care about? Contact FDS today on 1300 368 186 or visit fds.org.au
Find out how to approach drug issues within your family at For families.