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Adfam responds to the 2017 Drug Strategy

14 Jul 2017

Adfam welcomes the publication of the Home Office’s 2017 Drug Strategy (pdf).

  1. Commitment to evidence

Adfam is driven by what works and therefore endorses the strategy’s commitment to evidence-based interventions, in terms of both treatment options and support for families.

  1. Inter-relatedness of problems

For most of the families we work with the substance use of their loved one is not the only issue they face. The challenges of mental ill health, domestic abuse, offending and bereavement sadly often go hand-in-hand with problematic relationships with drugs or alcohol. We therefore welcome the strategy’s acknowledgement that “there are families where substance misuse is just one of a number of other complex problems” and the driving force social inequalities play in the development of all these issues.

  1. Support for and work with families

We welcome the strategy’s recognition of the key role families and parents can play in prevention, the inclusion of the need to support families in their own right, with the suggestion that “evidence-based psychological interventions which involve family members should be available locally and local areas should ensure that the support needs of families and carers affected by drug misuse are appropriately met”. The strategy’s highlighting of the efficacy of peer support in the recovery journey of both drug and alcohol users and their families resonates with the experiences of the families and practitioners we work with, and is therefore welcome.

From our experience, much of the support families value can include broader work encompassing one-to-one practitioner support based on listening, signposting and the provision of information – the structured therapeutic approaches mentioned can be expensive or impractical for voluntary and community groups to deliver.

  1. Harms experienced by adult family members

The main focus of the strategy’s coverage of families is driven by the desire to protect the children of those parents who use drugs or alcohol problematically. This desire is laudable. However the realities of the harms experienced by the families of substance users are significantly wider: many of the people Adfam supports are adults profoundly harmed by the substance use of partners, friends and children, both under and over 18. The focus on children within policy discourse means that sometimes the needs of adult family members are overlooked; we would therefore have liked to see a wider focus in the strategy.

  1. Resourcing

The acknowledgement in the strategy of the important role played by the voluntary sector is good to see, as are the commitments to supporting those with substance use issues and their families. Adfam joins others in the sector in noting that the long-term challenge will be ensuring there is sufficient resourcing and political will to meet those commitments.


Vivienne Evans
Adfam CE