The effects of harmful substance use on a family can be far reaching. Learning how to work with erratic behaviour, dealing with the frustration and worry of seeing a family member struggle with alcohol or drug dependence and managing the effects that this can have on different family members can be very stressful.
The immediate issues of drug or alcohol use and their effects on the user are one thing. The stress and influence this can have on relationships in the family is another.
There are resources and support available to help you start to deal with alcohol and drug issues as a family, and to assist you every step of the way.
Speak to someone about family drug or alcohol issues
If you are worried about a family member and do not know how to help them with their alcohol or drug use, try talking to someone about it. Someone who knows your family, such as your doctor, or a counsellor or social worker might be able to provide help in a way that fits your family.
If you would rather speak with someone you do not know, call DirectLine – Victoria's 24-hour alcohol and drug counselling service – on 1800 888 236. DirectLine's trained drug and alcohol counselling service will be able to give you advice and suggest the best next steps that suit your situation.
If you are a child and your parent has an alcohol or drug addiction, try talking to a relative that doesn't live with you, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent. If they can't help you, try talking to your teacher or school counsellor.
If you would rather talk to someone that you don’t know, you can also call:
- Kids Helpline for advice on any topic any time of the day or night
- DirectLine for advice and help for alcohol and other drug issues that are affecting you and your family.
Learn coping strategies for family drug or alcohol issues
Family Drug Help, a program of SHARC (Self Help Addiction Resource Centre) runs a course called InFocus.
The InFocus course offers practical information, coping strategies, life skills and the opportunity for people to connect through their shared experiences.
The course is run by professionals who have also been affected by someone’s drug and alcohol use. It is generally held one evening a week over a six-week period. It provides relevant information about addiction, family responses, the change process and recovery. Call the Family Drug Helpline 1300 660 068 for more information.
Take care of yourself while coping with family drug or alcohol issues
It can be easy to forget about your own health when you are worried about a loved one. The stress of coping can take its toll physically and mentally. Take some time to take care of yourself. If you feel like you need some extra support, speak with your doctor or a counsellor.
Services for families coping with family drug or alcohol issues
The following programs are targeted specifically to help families where a member has an alcohol or drug problem. Call DirectLine on 1800 888 236 for more information.
Parent support programs
Alcohol and drug professionals provide parent support programs to groups across Victoria to help them respond effectively to children and other family members with a drug problem. Contact Parentline on 13 22 89 for current program details.
Family counselling programs (drugs and alcohol)
These services are provided to families who seek help, counselling and support for their family member who has a drug use problem. Call DirectLine on 1800 888 236 or Family Drug Help on 1300 660 068 for details about family counselling programs and support groups in your area.
Breakthrough: ice education for families is a program designed to assist Victorians who are supporting someone affected by ice. It aims to help people recognise when a loved one has a problem with ice, and provides strategies for how to talk to someone about their drug use, and how to manage challenging behaviours.
The Breakthrough program also encourages the affected person to get treatment and supports them through their recovery.
Specialised drug and alcohol services
There are some specialised drug and alcohol services that provide help to certain groups of people. If your situation requires specialist assistance with older or younger people, language or translation services, different cultural backgrounds or homelessness, some of the following services might be useful for you.
Family help for young people
If you are worried about a young family member (up to the age of 25) call the Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice (YoDAA) helpline on 1800 458 685. YoDAA provides advice specifically for young people and people concerned about a young person with a substance use problem.
YoDAA's specialist alcohol and drug counsellors can offer advice over the phone or help you find more information.
The Victorian Government funds a range of youth-specific treatment services to help young people up to the age of 25 to address their alcohol and drug use issues. These services use a family-based approach where appropriate.
Family help for older people
There are many reasons older people develop alcohol or drug problems including:
- stress related to traumatic events.
If you are concerned about an older member of your family, speak with your doctor or call DirectLine on 1800 888 236 for information about treatment options.
Family help for different cultures
You or another family member may have special cultural or language needs. When using a public health service in Victoria you have a right to be communicated with in a way that you can understand and that respects your cultural needs. A professional interpreter will be provided at no cost for those who need it.
If you would like to access alcohol or drug counselling over the phone but are not confident with English, both DirectLine and Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice (YoDAA) telephone helpline can provide interpreters at no cost to you. Ask the person who answers your call to organise this. Make sure you are clear about the language or dialect you speak and mention if you would prefer an interpreter of a particular gender.
Family help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
The Department of Health and Human Services funds Aboriginal alcohol and drug workers in some Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and some mainstream alcohol and drug services across Victoria. The role of these specific Aboriginal alcohol and drug workers is to work in a culturally informed way with Aboriginal people and families to address problematic alcohol and drug use.
For information about accessing Aboriginal-specific services, call DirectLine on 1800 888 236 or speak with your local Aboriginal community-controlled organisation.
Family help and homelessness
If a family member needs alcohol and drug help and they are homeless, this can be taken into account when they are undergoing assessment for alcohol or drug treatment. Supported accommodation can be provided for people who have been through a withdrawal or rehabilitation program but need ongoing support to re-balance their life.
You can find out about supported accommodation programs by calling DirectLine on 1800 888 236.
Where to get help
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Alcohol and Drug Foundation
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