Richard had been using heroin heavily for ten years. He was married and his wife did not use heroin. They had two children—three years and eight years of age. He had run into legal difficulties as a result of his heroin use and decided to refer himself to the Drug Unit. He was aware that many areas of his life had become unbearable as a result of his drug dependence. He started a methadone reduction programme, and after six months of regular counselling he had managed to successfully reduce his methadone prescription and was now drug free. He had become more confident and self reliant, starting to assert himself, and had got much more involved in the care of his children at home. Richard then decided to end his treatment.
Three months later we received a telephone call from him, distressed and confused. His wife had become seriously depressed and his eight-year-old son had become unmanageable and was refusing to go to school. Richard could no longer cope and had begun to use heroin occasionally.
Richard was yet another example of the user who was successful at coming off drugs, but whose efforts to stay drug free were undermined because we did not recognise the significance of family involvement in an individual’s drug use. We began to consider the ways in which we could work with the family in order to help the user to sustain a drug-free life-style.
During the past decade, a picture has begun to emerge which clearly points to the importance of family factors in drug addiction. This image challenges the previously held view that drug users are cut off