Reflections on the Drug-Related Death Figures from a Family Member

The 30th July 2021! A day of great significance for our family…our son’s first night in his own new home! But we are painfully aware of its significance too for so many families across Scotland who have lost their loved ones to addiction this year, every life now symbolic of the loss of hope and the failed drug policies now so urgently in need of revision.

We have lived in the shadow of addiction for decades now and had almost come to expect that one day our son would be included in these chilling statistics. He has struggled, and we along with him, through several rounds of rehab, a spell in prison, homelessness and several overdoses … and we were almost always in a state of either hyper-vigilance or chaos. However, against the odds, he has survived and we are grateful beyond measure. Today is momentous for us.

We know the far-reaching impact of stigma which has its tentacles in every corner of society and which leads those affected to expect little for themselves in terms of respect, dignity or reasonable standards of service that others might receive in our health system.

It has also kept families from coming forward to advocate on behalf of their loved ones…but that is changing. Scottish Families has done so much in recent years to develop services and advocate for support for families across Scotland but also to promote better understanding and treatment of our loved ones at government and local levels. We are personally grateful too.

A new group, Families Campaign For Change, has grown from its roots in family support. Mainly mothers empowered by knowledge and compassion advocating passionately for improved services, it is informed by many years of experience and gaining momentum. Families are now demanding to be acknowledged, listened to and valued.

We attended a family support group some time ago and with the support of others who shared our journey and education on the nature of addiction, we came to a better understanding of a misunderstood affliction which allows demonisation of those struggling with what is a devastating illness. We turned anger and resentment to understanding and compassion and, though we had to make difficult choices at times to limit the impact on ourselves, we were also empowered to make choices that supported his recovery – a slow and winding path.

We have seen the development of better understanding through neuroscience and been encouraged by the brave pioneers willing to try alternative strategies in the face of institutional resistance. At last, we are beginning to see a move towards compassionate treatment for our loved ones and we are hopeful that they will come to be regarded throughout society as being worthy of humane treatment and respect as individuals in need of care rather than stereotyped as dangerous criminals needing incarceration or cast off as beyond help.

Behind all of these statistics are families; families who have loved and hoped; families who have supported and struggled, often alone and in the dark; families who have prayed and not been answered; families who grieve despite having done all in their power ….and we think of them; those whose shoes we have tried on so many times.

In their name, we ask for support for families impacted by addiction but also, as a matter of urgency, for our government to be brave and determined in their efforts to address this epidemic of tragic loss, and for services to be open to the challenges and embrace these changes.

– Rosie

If you are worried about someone else’s alcohol or drug use, we are here to listen and to help. You can contact our team on 08080 10 10 11, or use the webchat on our website.

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