Ireland fourth highest in Europe for drug deaths, by Cormac O’Keefe in the Irish Examiner, 31st October 2017

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner, Online, 31st October, 2017

Ireland has a death rate from drugs more than three times above the European average, according to an EU report.

Figures from the EU drugs agency shows the high death rate is concentrated among users under the age of 40.

Ireland’s drug-induced mortality rate is 71 per 1m people, placing us fourth out of 28 EU countries, along with Norway and Turkey. Estonia tops the table, then Sweden and Norway, with the UK in fifth place (60 per million), behind Ireland.

Ireland’s rate of drug deaths is more than four times that of the Netherlands (16.5) and 12 times that of Portugal (5.8).

“The drug-induced mortality rate among adults aged 15-64 years was 71 deaths per million in 2014, which is more than three times the most recent European average of 20.3 deaths per million,” said the report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The Ireland Country Drug Report 2017 took data supplied by the Irish Health Research Board and compared them against 29 other European states.

This showed that Ireland has a far higher death rate among younger drug users.

It shows that 22% of people who died here were aged 35-39, compared to 16% in Europe. Some 19% of deaths in Ireland involved users aged 30-34 (15% average), 16% were aged 25-29 (11%) and 9% were aged 20-24 (8%).

It found Ireland was fifth for newly diagnosed HIV infections attributed to injecting drug use, increasing between 2014 and 2015.

The report shows that a European survey of 15- to 16-year-old students found that Ireland was below average for current use of cigarettes, alcohol, and heavy drinking. However, Irish teens scored higher than average for lifetime use of cannabis, other drugs, and inhalants

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner, Online, 31st October, 2017

About

Hands on Peer Education, is a front-line service in Dublin’s north inner city, where those suffering with addiction and their families can get access to much needed support and treatment options. H.O.P.E. facilitates and advocates for recovery through abstinence. We also offer a wide range of advocacy services. H.O.P.E.’s free and confidential drop-in clinic is open from 10am ‘til 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Now That You’re Here

We love to get feedback, it helps us improve our service to the community. If you have a minute, we would greatly appreciate it if you write a few words about our service. Follow the link below to see our reviews on Google. Click ‘write review’ on the right hand side to add your own.
https://goo.gl/BgznUi
Many thanks from the team in H.O.P.E.

Unlocking the Past is Fundamental to Recovery, by Thomas Beck on Sober Nation

This story first appeared on Sober Nation, Online, August 23rd 2017

Life experience and addiction are intrinsically linked. It’s an unquestionable fact, yet many substance users fail to make the connection before a condition spirals out of control.

The reality is that we learn cycles of behavior and thought early in life through our interactions with people and the environment around us. As these factors continue to influence the way we think and act, it becomes increasingly difficult to see past learned behaviors. And sometimes, life events and experiences can lead to the development of unrealistic and harmful thought patterns of self and society.

For instance, children who witness or experience physical abuse while growing up often develop their own ideas for why it happens. They may feel responsibility or blame themselves for the inappropriate actions of others. While these beliefs are not grounded in reality, they can have a dramatic impact on how children view the world.

Or, consider how some children learn behavior from their parents. If a child watches a parent drink alcohol to manage anger or stress, this behavior may appear as an acceptable coping skill. As such, a child who learns this behavior may repeat it as an adult.

Negative life events, a skewed sense of reality or learned behavior can play a significant role in the development of a substance use disorder. If not identified early or treated properly, a person’s past may continue to haunt them, leading to a desire to escape painful feelings through misuse of drugs or alcohol. Consequently, making the connection between life events and addition is critical to successful recovery.

Life Events and Addiction: The Connection

Suppression, the conscious act of eliminating a thought pattern, is a fundamental contributor to behavior that leads to substance abuse. People who suffer from addiction commonly use drugs or alcohol to aid in suppressing painful memories, traumatic events or feelings of guilt and shame.

Often, suppression becomes a roadblock to addiction recovery. The more we ignore our past, the further we move from reality. Addiction then becomes a disconnect from rational thought processes, which hinder our ability to remember and address life events in a healthy way. Substance users may become increasingly confused, contributing to feelings of anger, shame and guilt, and ultimately creating a vicious addiction cycle.

Effective recovery from addiction requires a baseline understanding of life experience to keep this cycle from exacerbating. For this reason, we ask patients to write out their life story as a first step to recovery. Once a patient understands his or her past, he or she can break down life experiences, compartmentalize them and begin processing events that have influenced thought patterns.

Every life story is different, and triggers of substance abuse come in many forms. Without this baseline understanding, treatment is less effective in holistically treating the individual and helping them develop healthier thought patterns and behaviors.

Identifying, Letting Go and Creating New Patterns

Many substance users who have suppressed thoughts over time find it difficult to remember the past. In these cases, it helps to write a timeline of 10 to 15 events that led them to where they are today. Often, this exercise brings more memories to the surface and allows you to fill in the gaps of your life story. Then, you can better break down and simplify overwhelming amounts of past knowledge.

For instance, grief and loss is often a trigger of substance use, yet many people fail to make the connection. If you write out a timeline of events, you can see where an addiction formed or got out of control, and subsequently identify its association to a grief and loss event. Once identified, you can work with a counselor to better address the underlying trigger of addiction, process the painful event and establish a way forward.

The best setting for writing out a life story varies. Some patients feel overwhelmed by a group setting at first and are best suited to start the process of identifying the past through individual counseling. Others may be more apt to progress quickly in a group setting. Ultimately, all patients can benefit from life story groups, as this framework helps substance users learn from each other, gain confidence and grasp that they are not alone in their struggles.

The process of identifying life events and letting go of destructive thought patterns takes time, but it is the first step to healing. Once we begin verbalizing our pain and learning from past experiences, we can then begin letting go of painful memories and thoughts we want to suppress. It is at this stage that new patterns of behavior are possible.

Every life story is categorically unique; our individual experiences shape our existence and are incomparable to others. The journey to recovery begins with our life story. By looking back, we can understand the triggers of addiction, address guilt and shame and ultimately, create a new way of thinking.

This story first appeared on Sober Nation, Online, August 23rd 2017

About

Hands on Peer Education, a.k.a. H.O.P.E., is a front-line service in Dublin’s north inner city, where those suffering with addiction and their families can get access to much needed support and treatment options. H.O.P.E. facilitates and advocates for recovery through abstinence. We also offer a wide range of advocacy services. H.O.P.E.’s free and confidential drop-in clinic is open from 10am ‘til 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Now That You’re Here

We love to get feedback, it helps us improve our service to the community. If you have a minute, we would greatly appreciate it if you write a few words about our service. Follow the link below to see our reviews on Google. Click ‘write review’ on the right hand side to add your own.

https://goo.gl/BgznUi

Many thanks from the team in H.O.P.E.

The Habits of Long Term Sobriety by Kelly Fitzgerald on therecoveryvillage.com

This story first appeared on the Recovery Village, Online, 17th June 2016 

Getting through addiction treatment may be one of the hardest things you ever do.

It’s like learning how to do life all over again, but this time, you get an instruction manual. Once you graduate from rehab it will be up to you to take what you’ve learned and make it work in the real world.

It can be done, but there are daily recovery behaviors you should practice that will help lead you to long-term sobriety. Incorporate these things into your daily practice and you’ll be on your way to avoiding relapse and living a successful life in sobriety.

1. Honesty

To be sober, you have to be rigorously honest with yourself and others. Chances are if you’ve been through rehab already, you’ve heard this phrase before.

When I went through the 12 steps the first time and heard that I had to be completely honest, my first thought was, “oh crap.” Being honest about everything wasn’t my forte, but it became a way of life in sobriety. It’s almost like being sober and being honest go hand-in-hand. When you embark on your new life after addiction treatment, it’s imperative you keep being honest.

Honesty will help keep you sober.

2. Attending support groups

Whether it’s the 12 step, SMART recovery, Refuge Recovery, Women for Sobriety, or any other of the countless addiction support groups that are available, I recommend you find one as soon as you leave rehab. This will keep you accountable to your sobriety and offer you a support group in your area where you live.

There’s nothing that supports long-term sobriety better than a sober support system. You’ll be able to meet others who have been through similar situations you have and are also recovering from addiction. If have a problem or struggle in the future, these are groups of people you can turn to.

3. Meditation

I’ll be honest, I never meditated in my life before getting sober. It wasn’t something I ever thought about or would consider because I didn’t think it worked. When I sober and learned about what meditation is and that it never has to be done perfectly, like many of us think, I gave it a shot.

It’s amazing the calmness and peace that comes through a short meditation. All you have to do is quiet the mind and everything becomes much more manageable. Lived meditation is just being in the moment and not wishing you were somewhere else or someone else.

These are key aspects to successfully living in long-term sobriety; using your coping mechanisms at the right time and asking for guidance through meditation.

4. Exercise

Another seemingly simple behavior that is imperative to long-term sobriety is exercise. Exercise was always a part of my life, but it was something I had to do, not something I wanted to do.

When I got sober exercise took on a whole new role.

It gives me natural endorphins that make me feel good. It’s also a healthy outlet for my emotions. It keeps me sane. It also helps keep me on a schedule. You’ll be more likely to succeed in sobriety if exercise is part of your recovery plan.

5. Giving back

You might hear this in 12 step meetings, “you have to give it away to keep it.” This means sobriety, and what you’ve learned, should be given back.

Helping others has been an integral part of my recovery.

When I am of service to others – whether it’s my blog readers, other 12 step group members, or chairing a meeting at a rehab, I always find ways to give back. This 100 percent helps keep me sober. It allows me to come in contact with others who need help or might benefit from hearing my story. It reminds me where I came from and where I’m going.

I find that being of service has been one component of my successful sobriety and I believe it will stay that way for years to come.

These daily recovery behaviors will help you stay on the path to lifelong sobriety. A successful recovery program is made up of many different elements and it looks different for everyone. Find what works for you and put your recovery plan into action.

This story first appeared on the Recovery Village, Online, 17th June 2016 

HRB Factsheet January 2017 – Opiates: the Irish situation

Opiates: the Irish situation

January 2017


In common usage, the term ‘opiate’ tends to be understood as referring to all opiate/opioid drugs. To keep things simple, this Factsheet uses the term ‘opiate’ in this way.


What are opiates?

Opiates are derived from the dried milk of the opium poppy. Synthetic opiates are called opioids. Heroin is the most commonly used opioid. Methadone, which is used as a substitute drug in the treatment of heroin addiction, is also an opioid.

What do opiates do?

Opiates are sedative drugs that depress the nervous system. They induce feelings of relaxation and detachment in the user. The more often the drug is used the greater the quantity needed to produce the desired effect. Physical dependence often results from regular use and withdrawal can be very unpleasant. Opiates can be smoked, snorted or prepared for injection. Overdosing on an opiate can be fatal.

How do we know how many people use opiates in Ireland?

Surveys of random samples of the population can be used to estimate the total number of people who use specific drugs. However, opiate users are under-represented in population-based surveys, which are not designed to include people who do not normally live in private households (such as the homeless, hostel dwellers or prisoners).

Researchers in Ireland use a number of sources of information to estimate the number of opiate users in the population. These include:

  • The Central Treatment List (CTL), which is a register of the number of people who are receiving methadone or another opioid as a substitute drug treatment.
  • The Hospital In-Patient Enquiry (HIPE) scheme, which records details of people discharged from hospital, including their diagnosis.
  • The Garda information systems, which record details of drug-related crime.

How many people use opiates in Ireland?

There have been attempts in recent years to estimate the number of problem opiate users in Ireland using these overlapping sources. The first study estimated that 14,158 people were using heroin in 2001, a rate of 5.6 per 1,000 of the population. In 2006 the estimate was 20,790, a rate of 7.2 per 1,000. There are about 1.3 million opiate users in Europe.

How many people receive treatment for opiate use?

As of 31st August 2016 there were 9,652 patients receiving treatment for opiate use (excluding prisons).

The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) provides data on treated drug and alcohol misuse in Ireland.a A total of 16,587 cases entered treatment for problem drug or alcohol use in 2014, of whom 4,477 reported an opiate as their main problem drug. Of the 4,477 cases who reported an opiate as their main problem drug:

  • 943 were new cases.
  • 2,148 were resident in Dublin.
  • 2,955 were men.
  • 5 were under 18 years; 2,618 were aged 18–34.
  • 2,676 used opiates with other drugs.
  • 2,079 used an opiate daily, 640 used it between two and six days per week, 294 used it once per week or less, and 1,163 had not used it in the last month.ha
  • 1,737 injected, 2,059 smoked, 487 ate/drank and 5 sniffed/snorted opiates.

How many people die from using opiates?

The National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) is a database which records cases of death by drug and alcohol poisoning, and deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent. 354 people died from poisoning in 2014. Opiates were the main drug group implicated in poisoning deaths in Ireland in 2014. Methadone was implicated in more than a quarter of poisonings (98, 28%). The number of deaths where heroin was implicated increased to 90 in 2014 compared to 86 in 2013. This is the second year in succession that a rise in heroin deaths is reported.

One quarter (25%) of all poisoning deaths involved heroin. Of those who died where heroin was implicated:

  • 87% were male
  • 81% involved more than one drug
  • 48% were injecting at the time of the incident that led to their death
  • 46% lived outside Dublin (city and county)
  • 42% were not alone at the time of the incident that led to their death
  • 29% were homeless
  • 18% were recorded as being in addiction treatment at the time of their death.

Non-fatal overdoses and drug-related emergencies

According to the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry (HIPE) scheme, 4,233 cases of non-fatal overdose were discharged from Irish hospitals in 2013. There were 14% (587) positive findings for narcotic or hallucinogenic drugs in relation to these cases, of which 80% (468) were for an opiate.

What does the law say about opiates?

Heroin and other opiates are on the list of controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984, and amending regulations. Under the legislation a person who has this controlled drug in their possession is guilty of an offence. You can find more information about Irish drug laws, offences and penalties on the Citizens Information Board website.

Seizure of opiates

Information on drugs and crime is published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and includes data on drug seizures made by Garda and Revenue Customs officers. The number of seizures of heroin rose from 690 in 2013 to 954 in 2014. There were 15 seizures of methadone in 2009, and 56 in
2014.

The Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) analyses drugs seized by the Garda. FSI prepare a quarterly report for the Garda and the data presented here are from the combined report for 2014. This tells us the number of cases involving drugs initiated by the Garda and gives a picture of the relative
frequency of the various types of illicit drugs seized. 954 cases were associated with seizures of diamorphine (heroin). There was a significant increase in the quantity of heroin seized; from just under 40 Kgs in 2014 to just under 62 Kgs in 2015 (just over 61 Kgs of heroin in 2013).

For more information on opiates please refer to the following sources:

  1. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
  2. Kelly A, Teljeur C and Carvalho M (2009). Prevalence of opiate use in Ireland 2006: a 3-source capture-recapture study. Dublin: Stationery Office.
  3. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2014) European drug report 2014: trends and developments. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
  4. Health Service Executive (2017) Health service performance report August/September 2016. Dublin: Health Service Executive.
  5. Treatment data HRB National Drugs Library interactive tables.
  6. Health Research Board (2016) National Drug-Related Deaths Index 2004 to 2014 data. Dublin: Health Research Board.
  7. Health Research Board Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2016) Ireland: national report for 2015 – harms and harm reduction.
  8. Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2016) Ireland: national report for 2015 – drug markets and crime. Dublin: Health Research Board.
  9. An Garda Siochana (2016) An Garda Siochana: annual report 2015. An Garda Siochana, Dublin.

 

How to cite this factsheet:

HRB National Drugs Library (2017) Opiates: the Irish situation. HRB National Drugs Library, Dublin www.drugsandalcohol.ie/17313

************

Other Factsheets in this series:

Cocaine: the Irish situation
Alcohol: the Irish situation
Sedatives and tranquillisers: the Irish situation
Cannabis: the Irish situation

HRB National Drugs Library – Find the evidence

www.drugsandalcohol.ie

  • Quick updates – newsletter & Drugnet Ireland
  • Summaries – Factsheets & Annual national reports
  • Policy – Policy page & Dail debates
  • International research on interventions – Evidence resources
  • Publications of key organisations – HRB, NACDA & EMCDDA
  • Explanations of terms and acronyms – Glossary
  • Treatment data – Drug data link (or HRB publications)
  • Alcohol diary data
  • Search our collection – basic and advanced (you can save your results)

HRB National Drugs Library

Health Research Board
Grattan House
67-72 Lower Mount Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
t: +353 1 2345 175
e: drugslibrary[email protected]
w: www.drugsandalcohol.ie

 

HRB Factsheet January 2017 – Seditives and tranquilisers: the Irish situation

Sedatives and tranquillisers: the Irish situation

January 2017


What are sedatives and tranquillisers?

‘Sedatives’ and ‘tranquillisers’ are commonly used terms for a group of medicines which depress, slow down or calm the brain and central nervous system. Benzodiazepines (‘Benzos’) are the most common type of drug in this group, but other drugs with the same effects are also included.

What do sedatives and tranquillisers do?

Sedatives and tranquillisers can be used as hypnotic or anti-anxiety agents, depending on the dosage and on the time of day that they are taken. Hypnotics are used to treat insomnia (lack of adequate restful sleep) which is causing distress. Anti-anxiety drugs (anxiolytics), such as benzodiazepines, are used to obtain relief from severe and disabling anxiety.¹

How do we know how many people use sedatives or tranquillisers in Ireland?

Every four years the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol (NACDA) and the Northern Ireland Public Health Information and Research Branch (PHIRB) commission a survey of the general population to estimate the number of people in Ireland who use drugs and alcohol.² Face-to-face interviews take place with respondents aged 15+a normally resident in households in Ireland and Northern Ireland. This type of survey is not designed to include people who do not normally live in private households (such as prisoners or hostel dwellers).

How many people use sedatives or tranquillisers in Ireland?

The 2014/15 survey involved 9,505 people (7,005 in Ireland and 2,500 in Northern Ireland). The results for Ireland showed that:

  • 14.3% of the population had used sedatives or tranquillisers at least once.
  • Lifetime usage of sedatives or tranquillisers is higher amongst females than males across all age groups.
  • Use was higher among 65+ year-olds (21.4%) than all other age groups.

Use among young people

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) collects comparable data on substance use among 15–16-year-old students in 30 countries. According to the 2015 ESPAD report, 11% of Irish students (aged 15–16) reported that they had taken prescribed tranquillisers or sedatives at some point in their lives, and a further 2.8% had taken them without a prescription. Of 37 students who used non-prescribed tranquilisers or sedatives, 28 were aged 14 – 16 and 3 reported being 11 years old or younger. 20% of respondents said it was fairly easy or very easy to obtain sedatives or tranquilisers.

How many people receive treatment for sedative and tranquilliser use?

The National Drug Treatment Reporting System (NDTRS) provides data on treated drug and alcohol misuse in Ireland.b The most recent published data from the NDTRS4 shows that:
The number of cases entering treatment and reporting a benzodiazepine as their main problem drug increased from 78 in 2005 to 827 in 2014. Of the 827 cases who reported benzodiazepines as their main problem drug:

  • 347 (42%) were new cases.
  • 257 (31%) lived in Dublin.
  • 522 (63%) were men.
  • 50 (6%) were aged under 18 years; 577 (70%) were aged 18–34; 129 (15%) were aged 35–44; and 45 (5%) were aged 45–64.
  • 589 (71%) used benzodiazepines with other drugs.
  • 399 (48%) used benzodiazepines daily, 177 (21%) used it between two and six times per week, 57 (6%) used it once per week or less, and 150 (18%) had not used it in the last month.

How many people die from misuse of sedatives and tranquillisers?

The National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI) is a database of cases of death by drug and alcohol poisoning and deaths among drug users and people who are alcohol dependent. Two thirds of poisoning deaths involved poly-drug use, with an average of four different drugs
involved. Benzodiazepines were the most common drug group involved in deaths involving more than one drug (poly-drug). Diazepam (a benzodiazepine) was the most common single prescription drug, implicated in one-third (32%) of all poisoning deaths. Zopiclone-related deaths (a nonbenzodiazepine sedative drug) increased by 41% between 2013 and 2014.

Non-fatal overdoses and drug-related emergencies

According to the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Scheme (HIPE), there were 4,233 cases of non-fatal overdose discharged from Irish hospitals in 2013. There was evidence of benzodiazepines in 19% (818) of cases of overdose.

What does the law say about sedatives and tranquillisers?

Under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003–2008, a prescription medication can only be supplied in accordance with a prescription, and the supply must be made from a registered pharmacy by or under the personal supervision of a registered pharmacist. It is illegal for prescription medicines to be supplied through mail-order or internet sites. A person who has in his possession a prescription medicine containing a substance controlled under the misuse of drugs legislation for the purpose of selling or otherwise supplying it is guilty of an offence under that legislation.

Changes to regulations under the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill will introduce stricter controls on benzodiazepines and an initiative to tackle overprescribing. You can find more information about Irish drug laws, offences and penalties on the Citizens Information Board website.

Seizures of sedatives and tranquillisers

The Garda send drugs seized to the laboratory of Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) for analysis. Seizures of a selection of benzodiazepines and Z-hypnotics analysed by FSI in 2014 included 201 seizures of Alprazolam, 420 seizures of Diazepam and 125 seizures of Zopiclone. According to the
2015 Garda annual report 749 grams of benzodiazepines were seized with a value of nearly one million euro.

For more information on sedatives and tranquillisers please refer to the following sources:

  1. National Advisory Committee on Drugs & Public Health Information and Research Branch (2012)
    Drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 2010/11 drug prevalence survey: sedatives or tranquillisers and anti-depressants results. Bulletin 6. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs. [See glossary]
  2. National Advisory Committee on Drugs & Public Health Information and Research Branch (2016) Prevalence of drug use and gambling in Ireland & drug use in Northern Ireland. Bulletin 1. Dublin: National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol.
  3. Taylor, Keishia and Babineau, Kate and Keogan, Sheila and Whelan, Ellen and Clancy, Luke (2016) ESPAD 2015: European Schools Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs in Ireland. Dublin: Department of Health.
  4. Treatment data HRB National Drugs Library interactive tables.
  5. Health Research Board (2016) National Drug-Related Deaths Index 2004 to 2014 data. Dublin: Health
    Research Board.
  6. Health Research Board. Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2016) Ireland: national report for 2015 – harms and harm reduction. Dublin: Health Research Board.
  7. Health Research Board. Irish National Focal Point to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2016) Ireland: national report for 2015 – drug markets and crime. Dublin: Health Research Board.
  8. An Garda Siochana. (2016) An Garda Siochana: annual report 2015. An Garda Siochana, Dublin.

See also: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2015) Perspectives on drugs: the misuse of benzodiazepines among high-risk opioid users in Europe. Lisbon: EMCDDA

How to cite this factsheet:

HRB National Drugs Library (2017) Sedatives and tranquilisers: the Irish situation. HRB National Drugs Library, Dublin www.drugsandalcohol.ie/24954

************

Other Factsheets in this series:

Cocaine: the Irish situation

Opiates: the Irish situation

Sedatives and tranquillisers: the Irish situation

Cannabis: the Irish situation

Alcohol: the Irish situation

HRB National Drugs Library – find the evidence

www.drugsandalcohol.ie

  • Quick updates – newsletter & Drugnet Ireland
  • Summaries – factsheets & Annual national reports
  • Policy – policy page & Dail debates
  • International research on interventions – Evidence resources
  • Publications of key organisations – HRB, NACDA, & EMCDDA
  • Explanations of terms and acronyms – glossary
  • Treatment of data – key Irish data link
  • Search our collection – basic and advanced (you can save your results)

HRB National Drugs Library
Health Research Board
Grattan House
67-72 Lower Mount Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
t: +353 1 2345 175
e: [email protected]
w: www.drugsandalcohol.ie

How Addiction Affects the Whole Family

What Is Addiction? Insights From The Experts

How Addiction Affects the Whole Family

Addiction (or its current term of substance use disorder) is a personal journey. A person takes the path of drug use for his own reasons and by following his personal risk factors. Even if his path of addiction follows the same path of others, he will be dealing with his own struggles, symptoms and scenarios.

That’s why effective addiction treatment needs to address the needs of each individual – because not all paths of addiction look exactly the same, and people have different needs to address to become sober.
But even though this struggle is part of an individual’s journey, an addicted person can’t say that she’s only hurting herself. Instead, the effects of the addiction are reverberating throughout the person’s family, whether that includes parents, siblings, a spouse and/or children. That’s why addiction is called “a family disease.” Everyone faces some effects of this problem.

Here are two significant ways addiction affects family members:

Creating an Unstable Home Life

Addiction creates instability within the home and within the family unit. Instead of feeling safe and comfortable at home, the family members of an addicted person can feel uncertain, anxious and scared. They might be walking on eggshells waiting until anger strikes, witness arguing or take part in the arguing, and face the brunt of emotional and/or physical abuse.

Family members can deal with an unhealthy environment that includes hiding habits, manipulation and other tactics from the addicted person. [In the United States] The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, or NCADD, notes that family members tend to notice that the person’s actions don’t fit her words.

The family can have to deal with mental and physical health problems associated with the addiction. In addition, the NCADD explains that everyday routines are often thrown off by addiction. It can be hard to count on the addicted person, which creates a rift in the relationship and the loved ones’ well-being.

The home life can also be financially unstable because of the addiction. Income might go toward the substance use rather than enough food and other necessities. There might be worries about paying the bills and keeping the home. The addicted person may even lose his job because of the addiction and fail to contribute financially to the family, yet continue to add the burden of needing money for the substance.

The family can be put into a lot of tough situations that they wouldn’t have been in without the addiction. Family members become affected by legal troubles and financial troubles. They might have to worry when their loved one doesn’t show up at home all night, face the consequences of reckless behavior and have to deal with their loved one’s declining health.
These kinds of experiences create an unstable home environment that affects the family members’ mental health and ability to cope with life. And even though addiction involves the family members’ personal life, the effects extend beyond that.

The problems caused by the addiction can affect children’s school performance and adults’ work performance. Spouses and parents may have to work harder to make up for financial problems, and children may exhibit behavioral problems. Loved ones may give up personal interests and friendships to focus on the home life and hide the problem. These are just some examples of how the effects of addiction can work their way into different aspects of the loved ones’ lives.

Developing Unhealthy Ways of Coping

Especially when the individuals are stuck in a house with someone who’s addicted, family members often develop unhealthy ways of dealing with the situation. They often try to hide the substance use from outsiders and they may be ashamed of the person.

Family members often enable the person by providing money, buying the substances or offering support in other ways. In addition, family members often become codependent on the addicted person. David Sack, M.D., provided warning signs of this in an article for PsychCentral.

These signs include putting the addicted person’s feelings first and the loved one making herself responsible for the life of the addicted person. In addition, the codependent person can have trouble with personal boundaries, have his own emotions and decisions follow those of the addicted person and follow unhealthy practices, such as giving up his own interests or friendships, to keep the relationship.

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, explained in an article for PsychCentral that codependency (and addiction as well) can lead to ongoing shame that creates a sense that, “You’re ashamed of who you are. You don’t believe that you matter or are worthy of love, respect, success or happiness.”

 

Hopefully, the person with the substance problem will eventually get help to change his own life and improve the entire family. Family members can help the person seek treatment and go through the treatment and recovery process.

When the addicted person does enter a treatment program, the family can often take part in their loved one’s program through family therapy. This type of therapy helps to heal the entire family unit and get it working on the same page toward a healthier future together.

If the program does not offer family therapy, families could find a separate mental health or addiction professional who could offer this type of therapy to the group. Each person could also receive individual counseling if needed.

In addition, family members can take part in supportive groups available to them. These include Adult Children of Alcoholics, Al-Anon and others. These groups give loved ones a space to work on themselves and how the family addiction affected their lives.

Overall, addiction doesn’t just affect the addicted person. It affects everyone who is close to that person. Yet there is hope for the addicted individual to recover, and there is hope for the whole family.
Sources:

  • http://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/09/5-warning-signs-codependency/
  • http://psychcentral.com/lib/shame-the-core-of-addiction-and-codependency/
  • https://www.ncadd.org/family-friends/there-is-help/family-disease
  • https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/drug-use-hurts-families

 

Authors’ Bio

drdina

Dr. Dina Macaluso’s journey toward a career in psychology began in 1990. Since then, she has dedicated her life to helping people recover from addiction and mental health issues. Dr. Macaluso holds a doctorate degree in psychology, a master’s degree in sociology and marriage and family therapy, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is licensed in the state of Florida as a mental health counselor. Additionally, Dr. Macaluso is working on her certification as an addiction counselor. She currently is the Clinical Director at Lumiere Healing Centers Florida Location.

National Drug Strategy 2017

A new National Drugs Strategy is being developed by the Department of Health and will set out Government policy on tackling the drug problem from 2017 onwards. This new Strategy is important for service users, families, communities and front-line staff working in the field of addiction.

The Department of Health is running a public consultation between the 6th September and 18th October 2016, seeking the public views on the drugs issue in Ireland to help inform the new National Drugs Strategy. At the end of the public consultation, all the views received will be gathered in a report. The report will be provided to the National Drugs Strategy Steering Committee to help inform the new Strategy.

We are all invited to communicate our view in one of the following ways:

  • Visit the page: www.health.gov.ie/drugs-strategy and complete the questionnaire
  • Call the number: 1890 10 00 53
  • Write to: national Drugs Strategy, PO Box 12778, Glenageary, Co. Dublin
  • Email our views to: [email protected]

 

When we go through tough time, little things like talking about our problems, getting regular exercise, drinking less alcohol and being involved in activities we enjoy can make a big difference to how we feel. Find the little things that work for you at yourmentalhealth.ie

If you or anyone you know is at risk from drug or alcohol addiction, H.O.P.E. is here to help. Feel free to drop in for a chat. Our daily clinic is open from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Did you know that the brain can heal itself?

Not only can the brain heal itself, it can do a pretty good job at it too! That is of course once it is provided with the right materials and time to heal. Dr. Constance Scharff in Psychology Today highlights how it was once considered a fact, that the once the brain was damaged, it could not be repaired. However, breakthroughs in neuroscientific research have proven that this is in fact, not true.

Though individual neurons might be damaged beyond repair, the brain attempts to heal itself when damaged by making new connections or new neural pathways as work-arounds for the damage. This is called neuroplasticity,  neuro (brain/nerve/neuron) and plasticity (moldability).

Based on the latest neuroscientific research Dr. Scharff argues that abstinence is the best choice for recovery because the old neuropathways, the old links between addiction and pleasure are still there… It doesn’t take much to jump start the old habit.

The brain gets trained to do a particular behavior – use drugs or alcohol or gambling – eventually to the exclusion of all else.  BUT, in treatment, we can retrain the brain, that is develop a new pathway that supports recovery. With intensive[…] interventions, we strengthen the new “recovery” loop within the brain. The brain then learns to enjoy recovery, those things that give us pleasure in our sober lives – family, work, interpersonal interactions. We retrain the brain and thus change our lives.

Alta Mira has produced a very informative infographic detailing neuroplasticity in terms of addiction and recovery.

Rewiring the Brain Infographic
Rewiring the Brain Infographic

 

 

When does a social habbit become a dependency?

At which point do we reach the point of no return?

Alcohol… is the gateway drug, and two drinks – where you feel just tipsy enough to be reckless – the golden quantity. “After two drinks, I want to cut loose,”

Anonymous Article in the Guardian.

Our Digital Mission….

We would like to express many thanks to all those who joined us in celebrating the joint launch of our 2015 annual report and new digital media channels. We have been promoting recovery on the ground in the community for 12 years, and now we have expanded into the realm of digital.

Lunch Launch Team
The greater HOPE team

We would like to give special thanks to our guest speakers – Declan “Deco” Murphy, Catherine Mangan, Kenneth Reilly and Cllr. Christy Burke.

Research from around the world is always shedding new light on the dark world of addiction! Through our new digital channels, we will be promoting evidenced based recovery research, treatments, and support from around the globe.

We support our clients to find RECOVERY through an abstinence-based lifestyle. We feel this provides the greatest quality of life for the individual, their family, and community. This point-of-view, however, is not widely held. We hope to not only promote adequate rehabilitation but to encourage discussion and debate of the best possible way to support people’s recovery from addiction.