I have long been of the view that families and peer groups can play a vital role in tackling drug addiction. Indeed, this is generally accepted and there is an increasing focus on family involvement, in particular, under the National Drugs Strategy. Meanwhile, much of the focus of the prevention pillar is underpinned by a realisation of the need to build the self-esteem of young people to enable them to cope with negative peer pressures and to be positive influences in their peer groups.
The 2007 Report of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs — "The Experiences of Families Seeking Support in Coping with Heroin Use” — outlined the typical path of such families, moving from a lack of knowledge and coping alone, through accessing support, re-building families and supporting the recovery of the problem drug user.
The support of stable families is recognised as being hugely influential in regard to making progress towards recovery. Indeed, organisations involved in drug rehabilitation increasingly have family programmes included as part of the recovery plan for individual clients. The importance placed on family involvement is also illustrated by the on-going support afforded to the Family Support Network by the Office of the Minister for Drugs. The Network carries out very important work in supporting families and encouraging their involvement in the recovery process.
Action 32 of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 envisages the development of a comprehensive integrated national treatment and rehabilitation service. This will incorporate the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation, which calls for the development of a pilot short-stay respite programme for families of drug users.
The HSE holds the lead role in relation to the implementation of these recommendations and it also chairs the National Drugs Rehabilitation Implementation Committee. It is envisaged that the development of a pilot short-stay respite programme for families of drug users will be addressed in that context over the period of the National Drugs Strategy.