Research reveals devastating impact drug addiction has on families

The profound impact that drug addicts have on their families is revealed in a new book, published tomorrow, by a leading researcher at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow.

Professor Marina Barnard examined the devastating effects of drug use, not only on the drug users themselves, but also on their families who experience feelings of anger, shame and loss. The research, published for the first time in book form, also highlights the unsung role grandparents play in caring for the children of drug addicts and calls for an urgent review of services provided by support agencies for families affected by drug abuse.

Professor Barnard said: 'This research - which for the first time has involved interviews with drug users' parents, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters and service providers - shows, in the clearest of terms, that illegal drug abuse is destroying family life for many thousands across Scotland today. Whilst there is growing policy recognition that the needs of these families remain unmet, the vast majority of services and government funding is still directed at the addicts, with other family members left to founder alone.

'Our research has found shortcomings in the professional practice of many of the agencies. Children in particular are still being neglected in fundamental ways because of the persistent focus on the adult by those charged with the responsibility for these families. The solution to this problem will inevitably involve a substantial increase in funding to children and family and other services but no less important is the requirement of a much closer specification of the responsibilities falling to services in supporting vulnerable families and a need for much greater oversight of the services involved.

Professor Barnard warned: 'If we fail in these areas then tens of thousand of children in Scotland today will suffer irreparable harm as a result of the drug use that surrounds their young lives.'

Fergal Keane, Special Correspondent for BBC News, who has written the foreword for the book, shares Professor Barnard's concerns. He said: "The most common and damaging misunderstanding about drug dependency is that it only concerns the person using the drugs. If we could just fix the addict then everything else would be alright. It is a perception which not only places enormous pressure on the individual who is dependent on drugs but it also ignores the pain experienced by families and loved ones.

'Of the first lessons I learned as a recovering alcoholic was that what I considered 'my' problem was in fact a problem for a lot of other people as well. The pain and illness spreads out from the addict to encompass partners, children, siblings and friends. The family can find itself caught in a web of denial, shame, anger and sheer bewilderment as the drug user is pulled away from them by the force of addiction.'

'Drug Addiction and Families' by Professor Marina Barnard is published on 7 November by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Martin Shannon (

PRESS CALL: Professor Marina Barnard publishes new book entitled: 'Drug Addiction and Families'. There will be readings of case studies by actress Vivien Taylor and Professor Barnard will be available for interview.

DATE: 11am TOMORROW (Tuesday 7 November)

LOCATION: Conference Room, Centre for Drugs Misuse Research, 89 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow.

Further information: Professor Marina Barnard on 0775 3776383

Please note that Professor Barnard is travelling today and will not be available until after 4.30pm.

First published: 6 November 2006