New Drug-Related Death Statistics – ‘Distress and Loss are an Everyday Experience for Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs’

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

Justina Murray, CEO, stated:

“Each year on a single day, the latest drug-related death statistics are published. Quite rightly, this attracts considerable political and media attention, with deserved outpourings of grief and sympathy, as well as anger at this tragic loss of life and the need to do more.

We recognise that for families affected by substance use, this day is like every other day. Family members continue to live their lives under extreme pressure, with each day shaped by trying to support their loved ones in every possible way, and desperately trying to keep them safe and alive. They are living their lives in an exhausting state of hyper-vigilance, with every phone call or knock at the door potentially heralding bad news. For those who have lost a loved one, every day they are living with the trauma and loss of this ‘double bereavement’ – first a loss to addiction, and then a further loss through their substance-related death.”

This year is one we’ll never forget. Many families across Scotland have faced additional and extreme pressures in their everyday lives because of the COVID pandemic. Most feel scared for their loved one’s wellbeing and worried for what will happen to them, because of the uncertainty this year has brought to us all.

This year we are asking everyone to remember that living with substance use and loss is an everyday experience for families, and that they need to be supported, included and recognised 365 days a year.

Karen, Family Member said:

“Our son was confined to his little rented flat in Edinburgh…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.”

Margaret, Family Member told us:

“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…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.”

Naloxone ‘Click and Deliver’ Service

In May, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs launched Scotland’s first national ‘Click and Deliver’ take-home naloxone service, with support from the Scottish Drugs Forum. The service was made possible via a statement on prosecution policy by the Lord Advocate. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, methadone, codeine, etc. As of 30 November 2020, we have distributed 155 kits across Scotland to family members and friends, people who use drugs/are at risk of overdose and to service workers such as taxi drivers, security guards, students and volunteers/community responders. All of whom will potentially save a life one day.

Families as Lifesavers

In November, we launched a two-year Families as Lifesavers programme, funded by the Scottish Drug Deaths Task Force. 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 will be starting direct work with families within the next month.

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