• Dealing with harmful drug or alcohol use can affect all members of the family. It is normal to feel stress and concern as a result of a family member's drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Talk to your doctor, counsellor or social worker as a starting point to find help for your family, or call DirectLine, Victoria's 24-hour alcohol and drug counselling service, on 1800 888 236.
  • If you are concerned about a young family member (up to the age of 25) call the Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice (YoDAA) telephone helpline on 1800 458 685.
  • You can learn skills and strategies to help you cope with a family member's addiction. Call Family Drug Help on 1300 660 068 for more information.

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 addiction 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 are another.

As a family, there are resources and support in place to help you start to deal with alcohol and drug issues 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 addiction, 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 offer special insights.

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 the child of a parent with alcohol or drug addiction start by talking to a relative that doesn't live at home who can help you, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent. If they can't help you, then your teacher or school counsellor may be able to help you. Calling DirectLine is a great way to get advice and help in the first place.

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.

InFocus is a comprehensive course that offers practical information, coping strategies, life skills and the opportunity for people to connect through their shared experiences.  The course is facilitated by professionals who have also been impacted by someone’s drug and alcohol use and is generally held one evening a week over a 6 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 concerned about a loved one. The stress of coping can take its toll physically and mentally. Take some time to take care of yourself and if you feel like you need some additional support, speak with your doctor or counsellor.

Services for families and parents 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 further information.

Parent support program

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 program (drugs and alcohol)

These services are provided to families who seek help, counselling and support for their family member who has a drug addiction 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.

In addition, a new partnership, led by Turning Point and involving SHARC and the Bouverie Centre, was funded by the Government to deliver Breakthrough: ice education for families. Breakthrough is a new program designed to assist Victorians who are supporting someone affected by ice. It will help families and community members recognise when a family member has a problem with ice, encourage the affected person to get treatment and support them through their recovery.

For more information about the program and planned workshops, go to: Turning Point.

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 these services might be useful for you.

Family help for young people

If you are concerned about a young family member (up to the age of 25) call the Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice (YoDAA) telephone 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:

  • grief
  • boredom
  • depression
  • 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 YoDAA (the Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice 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 homelessness is an issue for you or any member of your family this can be taken into account when 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 

More information

Alcohol and drug services topics

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Last updated: September 2015

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