Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs is marking the release of the 2019 drug-related death statistics on Tuesday 15 December with a week of activities running 14-18 December, highlighting that living with the impact of substance use is ongoing for families – it is not restricted to a single day.


On Monday we will be revisiting personal letters from families published the previous week as part of our Lockdown and Beyond: COVID Insights report. The letters reflect on family members’ own experiences over the last year and illustrate the extreme pressures on families during the pandemic:

“A lot of bad things have happened this year. We had a separation in the family because my gran had a mental breakdown and that hit me and my mum really hard. It was severely traumatic and she had to move out and as most stuff was in her name, we weren’t left with much.” (‘Anna’, age 16)

“Our son was confined to his little rented flat in Edinburgh, along with his alcohol addiction and his work.  …  We couldn’t visit him to see with our own eyes how he was, and as he’s never been the best at communicating, I had to rely on him answering his mobile phone to find out how he was.  I knew that he was relieving the stress by self-medicating with cider or beer.  … Often when I phoned, I got the voice that starts off, “I’m sorry, but the person you are calling …” and my stomach would knot.  ….  My instincts were telling me that my son’s life was in grave danger.” (Karen, Family Member)

“My son was furloughed at the start of lockdown and I had to call paramedics to respond to him after he accidentally overdosed twice within a fortnight. The first time involved Valium and acid and the second time was ketamine and alcohol, but we don’t know for sure. He regularly attempts to binge drink alcohol in his room. Sticking to social distancing and not being able to see his ‘friends’ during lockdown has been a struggle for him. … Looking ahead to 2021 I will continue on my journey towards healing myself and my family so that I can relearn how to love and support my son.” (Margaret, Family Member)

Read Our Letters from Lockdown


image of naloxone injecting kitOn Tuesday we will be responding to the latest drug-related death statistics which will be published that morning. We will be highlighting how we are working with families to reduce the risk of drug-related death through establishing Scotland’s first ‘Click and Deliver’ take home naloxone service, and launching our new Families as Lifesavers programme.

Justina Murray, CEO stated:

“Today is a day to remember those we have lost and the families left behind, and to do everything within our powers to reduce the risk of other families experiencing the same heartache. We know that despite everything, families want and need hope, and a belief that others will not experience such loss in the future.

We have established Scotland’s first Click and Deliver take home naloxone service to help family members respond safely and effectively in the event of overdose. We have already delivered 155 naloxone kits, reaching all but two of Scotland’s local authority areas to date. And we have launched our new Families as Lifesavers programme, which will be working with families who believe their loved one is at high risk of drug-related death. This will offer family members intensive, wraparound support in their own right, along with an opportunity to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding around harm reduction, and the importance of connection and self-care.”

  1. ‘Click and Deliver’ Naloxone service:
  • With support from the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), Scottish Families launched Scotland’s first national ‘Click and Deliver’ take-home naloxone service on 18th May 2020.
  • This provision is targeted on families, however it can be accessed by anyone living in Scotland.
  • This has only been made possible via a statement on prosecution policy by the Lord Advocate. Previously, only registered drug and alcohol treatment services could supply naloxone, however due to the current restrictions on the availability of these services, the Lord Advocate stated that other services can supply naloxone to save lives without fear of prosecution (as long as a number of requirements are met).
  • Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, methadone, opium, codeine, morphine and buprenorphine. It is only effective for opioid overdoses and won’t work with any other drug.
  • Naloxone kits can come as either Prenoxad, which is a pre-filled syringe which you can find out how to use here. Or as Nyxoid, which is a nasal spray. We supply Prenoxad injecting kits.
  • Naloxone will begin to work in 2-5 minutes, and the effects of naloxone will last between 20-40 minutes. After that time, the effects will wear off and the person will go back into overdose – medical help is crucial for the person during this time. You have to phone 999 and ask for an ambulance after giving naloxone.
  • As at 30 November 2020, we had distributed 155 kits across Scotland (covering all but two Alcohol and Drug Partnership areas). These had been issued to:
  • 18 people who use drugs/ at risk of overdose
  • 55 family and friends.
  • 82 service workers (e.g. taxi drivers, public transport staff, security guards, students, social work and housing staff, and volunteers/ community responders
  1. Families as Lifesavers programme:
  • Families as Lifesavers is a two-year Test of Change funded by the Scottish Drug Deaths Task Force.
  • We already know that families are as a protective factor in reducing harm and risk, BUT this role is largely unrecognised and unsupported, AND families remain excluded and judged by others.
  • We are working with families to test out what happens when we identify family members who believe their loved one is at high risk of drug-related death, and offer them intensive wraparound support as well as working with them to increase understanding, skills, knowledge, coping and response strategies, connection and self-care.
  • We are currently developing a new risk assessment tool in partnership with families, as well as the wider package of support and development.
  • We will be starting direct work with families within the next month.


a heart drawn in white chalk on a benchWEDNESDAY 16 DECEMBER: ‘I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM’

On Wednesday we are focusing on the importance of connection and self-care, and are coming together with families and friends for a virtual coffee morning.

We will share information on how we are supporting families this Christmas, learn some tips from our team about looking after yourself at Christmas, hear from families about their experiences, and premiere the latest release from our ‘Voices Together’ virtual choir, singing ‘I’ve got my love to keep me warm’.



On Thursday we will be launching a new research report, based on research carried out by John Holleran, our Families and Communities Manager, as part of his MSC in drug and alcohol studies at UWS. Family support is an area of increasing interest yet much of the evidence around families, their support experience and what this offers for families in their own right is often limited. ‘Constantly just holding it up and together’ seeks to address some of the gaps in our understanding by exploring the experiences of families in their own words. This research found that:

  • On average family members had been supporting their loved one for 14 years at the time of the research;
  • It was an average of 11 years before family members found and reached out for support in their own right;
  • Support was the last resort when they felt unable to cope alone, had exhausted their own supports or when life was so difficult that external help was needed to stay safe.

“At the time it was just survive-survive-survive. …You’re worried [husband] is going to die, in your daily list of things that are gonna happen your like… oh shit, he’s gonna die today and it’s constantly on your list of things to consider in today’s shopping list – husband’s dead! … Constantly just holding it up and together.” (Family Member – research participant)

“…for every parent it’s a crusade, you’re constantly fighting to save them and their life. It’s that runaway train and you never seem to catch up and your fear is what drives you… because, I’m sure I’m not the only one that will have said ‘I’m going to find him dead’ you know… that becomes your focus.” (Family Member – research participant)

“Getting support enabled me to say to people; you know, things are shit but do you mind if we don’t talk about cos actually I just want to have a nice afternoon or just want to forget about things for a while and I always thought I couldn’t really do that although it sounds very simple.” (Family Member – research participant)

Join us for the launch of this report as we introduce the study and key findings and welcome you to join the conversation about what this means for families in Scotland. This event will be held via Zoom and we will send you out a link the day before. If you would like to attend you must pre-book via this link.



And finishing up the week, we will be launching a podcast over on our collaboration ‘The Scottish Recovery Show’. The podcast sees Martha Rae from our team talking to family member, Kirsteen. Kirsteen talks about how things are going after her support from Scottish Families. She gives an honest account of how things got too much for her in late 2019 and she realised she was exhausted and had to make changes in her life or things would get worse. She talks about her learnings when using Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) techniques with Martha, and how setting boundaries/making changes helped greatly. She talks about the difficulties managing emotions and behaviour and when things are in a crisis and how easy it is for things to become irrational and emotionally-driven.

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