Coping with drink and drug addiction in the family



Research by the University of Lincoln has shed new light on the impact drug and alcohol addiction can have on families.


The study, carried out by the University’s Community Operational Research Unit, looked at the toll taken on parents, siblings and even grandparents caring for loved-ones with drink or drug problems.


University of Lincoln research fellow Jennifer Jackson spoke to affected families who were finding help at the Oasis Project – a support organisation based on Mint Street, Lincoln – and asked them to recount their experiences.


The findings from her research, which was funded by the Peter and Gwyneth Hodgkinson Charitable Trust, will be unveiled at the Oasis Project’s annual general meeting on 17 November.


The report will show that beyond the initial shock of discovering a family member is misusing drugs or alcohol, the ‘ripple effects’ can lead to long-term disruption of home life and relationships.


Jennifer said: “Conflict between parents and siblings as to what to do about the situation was common, as was resentment as attention was distorted towards the family member with the problem. There were effects on the family’s finances, employment and housing.”


Families often found themselves isolated from their neighbours and friends because of the perceived stigma of drug or alcohol misuse.


There was evidence that the strain on family members could damage their physical and mental health too – with some showing signs of raised blood pressure, angina and other stress-related illnesses.


The research found that organisations like Oasis had a vital role to play - by recognising that drug and alcohol addictions have a profound impact on entire families, not just individuals.


The Oasis Project was set up in 2000 by two mothers whose children had drug addictions. Recognising there was a shortage of formal support services, they established their own voluntary group to help families in similar circumstances. Using an anonymous donation of £250, they set up a 24-hour helpline.


The organisation now has a team of project workers and volunteers who continue to operate the helpline, as well as offering one-to-one and group meetings for families and performing drug awareness talks in schools.


Jennifer said: “Oasis’ 24-hour helpline was found to be invaluable to deal with the crises that occur at weekends, holidays and in the middle of the night, when most statutory services are unavailable.”


The report will be launched at the Oasis Project AGM at 7pm on Monday 17 November at the University of Lincoln’s Riseholme campus.