The policy context: reversing a state of neglect

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This article briefly outlines the neglect of families within previous UK policy documents relating to drugs and alcohol, and discusses the significant progress that has been made in focusing on the family over the past decade. Although substance misuse causes major problems for many family members, this was not even recognized across the Western world: substance misuse was seen primarily as a problem for the individual misuser. When at last the impact on family members did start to be recognized, this led to interventions which tended to blame or pathologize affected family members (they were seen as co-dependent or in need of family therapy). Simultaneously, major policy and strategy documents within both the alcohol and the illicit drug worlds gave minimal attention to family members.This is at last starting to change. A range of Government and other national documents from England and the devolved administrations across the UK, along with some wider international strategy documents, are examined. Many have started to reflect on both the needs of, and the advantages of including, family members and other close network members. The vast majority of these documents refer primarily to substance-misusing parents and the effects that they have on their children. There is however still a major need to increase the visibility both of the needs of all family members, including spouses and parents of substance misusers, to be able to access appropriate help in their own right (such as the 5-Step Method, the focus of this supplement) and of their important role as part of the treatment that their substance-misusing relatives might receive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-35
Number of pages28
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue numbers1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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