Over the last five years, Adfam has pioneered a new model of work with families affected by drugs and alcohol in Greenwich to provide them with the training, resources and support to understand the impact of drugs and alcohol on their lives, and to build sustainable relationships and positive futures.
The approach has been to empower families to develop, deliver and evaluate sustainable services for themselves and for other families living in the Greenwich area.
The model has sprung from the use of Recovery Champions – peers recovering from addiction and supporting others – which has become a mainstream approach in the substance misuse treatment sector.
Individuals in Greenwich have become visible Family Recovery Champions, inspiring others to make positive changes in their lives and redress the negative impact of drug and alcohol use in their families and communities.
The level of need
In 2009, the UK Drug Policy Commission estimated that there are at least 1.5 million people in the UK affected by someone else’s drug use. However, this figure only includes those family members and carers living with someone using drugs, and only when the drug use is at the extreme end of the spectrum.
Other estimates, based on the assumption that every substance misuser will negatively affect at least two close family members, suggest that the true number is nearer 8 million. Family members affected by a relative’s alcohol use are likely to be far more numerous, given the greater prevalence of alcohol misuse in the general population.
We know that living with a substance user can have a detrimental effect on a family
member’s health. Research has found, for example, that family members:
- are more likely to be diagnosed with their own medical conditions than non-drug using families, to levels of seriousness comparable with psychiatric outpatients
- suffer stress-related physical and psychological symptoms that can be severe and long-lasting, which are associated with high use of primary care services
- are at a similar or higher risk of disease, emotional issues and behavioural problems to families with a relative suffering from a chronic health condition.
The model of family support
Adfam designed the project model to have three key components:
- One-to-one practitioner support: listening, signposting and advice
- Information: on drugs and alcohol, self-care, communication, boundaries, keeping safe, enabling and other important topics
- Peer support: often, but not exclusively, delivered in a group setting.
Family members can be visible examples of recovery