Living in lockdown has been hard on everyone, and especially on families where the alcohol and/or drug use by a family member is causing even more strain on family dynamics.

The Family Drug Helpline (1300 660 068) has remained open throughout the lockdowns, continuing to provide support to family members, significant others and friends.

Overall, we have seen significant increase in stress and need for emotional support because lockdown has magnified existing stressors for families.

In the early days of COVID restrictions, the majority of our calls centred around concerns of living in close quarters with family members and being confronted by their drug related behaviour. This included regularly leaving and returning home and lack of social distancing, creating worry about bringing infection into the family.

Many families are concerned about increased alcohol and drug use by their family member. Limited access to treatment and support avenues has had an impact on their resolve to change (both for families and those using).

Add to this insecurity about the future, and financial and unemployment stress; and it is no surprise that we are seeing an upturn in reports of family tensions and family violence. Lack of privacy and safe places within the home has led to calls being made to us from cars and external locations.

Trending themes of calls to the helpline include:
· Young people and cannabis use
· Unemployment and alcohol use
· Ice use across generations

People now seem to be experiencing lockdown fatigue and some are finding it harder to reach out for help at this stage in lockdown.

It is important to access support when things are difficult so please advise your family clients that the Family Drug Helpline is available and ready 24/7, offering a safe space to talk during a challenging time, and providing information, referral and practical strategies on how to self-care and keep emotionally and physically safe.

WRAD operations manager Mark Powell said his experience running the SMART recovery online group for “ family and friends” would echo the experience reported from SHARC. “Families in ‘lockdown’ are seeing the effects of the substance use more profoundly as they are home together all the time. This can be quite stressful and harder for families to seek support from friends and others when unable to visit. I would encourage families and friends to seek help for themselves during this time and to look to novel ways of engaging support either via zoom groups such as smart recovery for family and friends or SHARC family drug help support groups.”