Substance abuse treatment is most effective if the family is involved. Why does it happen so rarely then?

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This is what the University of Stavanger (UiS) writes in a news item about the treatment of substance abuse problems. In the article, they refer to results from a doctoral degree by sociologist Anne Schanche Selbekk, who has investigated the possibilities of drug treatment for the family. 


Substance abuse problems affect the whole family

UiS writes:

Relatives [of individuals with drug problems] feel despair and hopelessness. Many people develop their own ailments due to large loads over a long period of time. 

Selbekk tells in the article:

Substance abuse problems affect the whole family. Increasing intoxication carries with it unpredictability, stress and conflicts in the family.

She goes on to say that what characterizes the treatment system today are strong patient rights and a system that favors help for the individual, and where health is first and foremost perceived as something individual.

Thus, family and relatives are often ignored in drug treatment.   

- We must be involved from the start

One of Selbekk's informants said:

It is important that we are involved from the very beginning. Then there is still something to build on - still a willingness to stick together.

However, this is not necessarily what happens in practice. UiS writes:

For the sad fact is that when a drug addict first comes to treatment, the ties to the family are often broken long ago. Too much strain over too long causes families to split up.

A key point in the article at UiS is that there is a lot to be gained from involving the family in drug treatment. They write:

The person with drug problems needs help to work with their relationship to the drug, while the relative may need help to process experiences from living with someone without these problems. In addition, they must work with the relationships in the family.