Untold Harm - Family

There is much written in recent years about the plight of the Australian drug user, the majority who didn’t start their journey into drug use because of trauma, but started out with an agenda to ‘party’ - only in search of a ‘better buzz/a good time!’ 

This now ‘positive’ focus is increasingly on the ‘rights’ and support of the self-harming individual (of which some is clearly warranted) But the growing, and by far, larger demographic that is paid little or no attention to, is the family of the drug taking individual. To borrow from an Alzheimer’s awareness campaign;  ‘He/She is a drug user, and the rest of the family suffer from it!’ For example, in our recent Ice scourge, the Sydney Morning Herald stated “For every one person using ice – 10 family members will be effected” (SMH 19/11/16) 

This egregious reality of course is rarely (if ever) spoken of, especially not by either pro-drug activists or any other non-civic minded ally – it  doesn’t serve well the brand of hedonistic self-indulgence party goer. These silent sufferers – these hurting families (and there are thousands) are more often dismissed or worse, made to feel guilty if they don’t accommodate every activity of the now captive consumer. 

Time and space here would not permit the diatribe of injustice that this speaks to, so we will refrain!

So, this space is dedicated to those who wish to step from their grief, vexation, fear, anger, and at times, utter despair, and share about not only what drugs do to their family, but more importantly challenging the notion that greater accessibility, acceptability and availability of drugs will make it ‘all better’ for their family and community!  

Read their stories and if you have one of your own, share it with us. This can be done anonymously and with complete confidentiality – Just submit your piece to drug-advice@daca.org.au for consideration. Again, all submissions will be treated respectfully and suitable ones posted with permission.

The phone rings, the voice on the other end of the phone is daughter I love, but I rarely hear her voice, unless there is a need, and this time was no different.

“I need a place to crash tonight!” My immediate response is, of course, but then I ask; “Why, what’s wrong with your place?”

The story comes back, not a new one, but one that is still both sad and frustrating to hear… “Oh, you know, my boyfriend is going on his monthly ‘bender’ tonight and he’s locked me out of the house!”

This, I understood. This is the ‘Harm Reduction Hamster Wheel’ that my poly-drug and methadone dependent daughter and her boyfriend are on. They line-up for their methadone, but don’t take it; they on sell it to other addicts or, as was the usual case this month, save them up for a ‘binge’, all courtesy of tax-payer funded and government supplied opiates!

This long term drug use, started as a naïve and somewhat rebellious teenager. She ‘bought’ the propaganda of the pro-drug lobbyists, that ‘fun’ and individual self-determination free of societal conventions can be found in the mouth of a ‘bong’ and a peer group school-yard ‘puff’ on a joint. 

 Thanks to this ongoing drug use, now decades, this precious family member is not only so dysfunction, but must be heavily medicated on anti-psychotics and they must be administered through a Community Based Order, by a clinician, or our messed up daughter will end up back in the Psych ward over Christmas. But, hey, they say this ‘system’ is ‘reducing her risk of harm and ‘possible death’; How - is my confused declaration!  There appears to be not only a lessening of any risk of her using any drug at any time, but these ‘peddlers of prescription opiates’ are adding another drug to her regime and so adding to the risk. This process enables her to continue to use unabated and her health and well-being are shattered – and it would appear for the rest of her time reduced life.

Meanwhile she is lovingly, but futilely, trying to bring a new born life into her chaotic unrequited world. Sadly, an unbroken cycle of what could have been a life well lived!

This self-indulgent choreography has now morphed into an enslavement to dependant processes that have only one perspective – the meeting of every felt need, regardless of what that means to society, relationships, family or even self. 

 John M.

DACA Comment - This tragic and true story is by no means in the minority. This level of chaotic dysfunction is growing and growing because the National Strategy of Harm Minimisation has been sabotaged and hijacked by one dimensional thinking and policy interpretation. The Full strategy of Harm minimisation is Demand Reduction, Supply Reduction and Recovery focused Harm Reduction with prevention and even abstinence as part of the mandate. Instead we now have the term ‘harm reduction’ interchangeable with Harm Minimisation and in practice it seems to have only one goal… Keep the drug user supplied and using all under the faux banner of ‘care’ and ‘kindness’. Yet this ‘version’ of care and kindness is only creating more users, greater use and then the call for even more paraphernalia and opioid substitutes, or even ‘clean’ product! And, so the hamster wheel keeps spinning ever faster!


“Healing is a journey. While we will never move PAST our grief and loss of Matt, we are moving THROUGH it. We are grateful for the resources and the people we have met through The G.A.P. Network who have come along side of us. It has been a valuable support to Paul and me in a journey that we never imagined we would be on but, unfortunately, is one that all too many parents are taking because of the current opiate epidemic.” —Ellen Schoonover, Mother 



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In a brutally honest account Kerryn Redpath describes the terrifying scenes she witnessed as what began as "a bit of fun" spiralled into a shocking journey through the dark world of drug addiction. Chilling stories of drug overdoses, precious lives lost, drug and alcohol fuelle

d fights, months spent gravely ill in hospital, at one point being given less than two hours to live, will have the reader gripped to every page….This is a compelling story that takes the reader through one person’s journey from the depths of despair to the realms of hope and is hard to put down until the final page is read. 

“This is a story that should be read by all - young and old, parents, teenagers and current or past addicts of all persuasions.”   -   Associate Professor Peter Ryan  


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