Chrissie Kelly (left) and the Family Drug Support Queensland team in Rockhampton.
Chrissie Kelly (left) and the Family Drug Support Queensland team in Rockhampton.

How families can help reduce drug dependence stigma

Rockhampton families are the best bulwark against alcohol and drug dependence.

That was the message at Family Drug Support’s meeting at Frenchville Sports Club this week for International Family Drug Support Day.

Several speakers took to the stage to raise awareness about what Family Drug Support State Manager Chrissie Kelly called “family inclusive practice”.

“Families are the first people that drug users go to,” she said.

“Nobody knows the drug user like the family. So if we can harness that tool and provide that support we’re more likely going to succeed in keeping them safe while they’re choosing that behaviour.”

During the event, drug addiction was likened to a frog adjusting its body temperature to a slowly-boiling pot of water.

In other words, when drug users start down the track of dependence, they often do not immediately realise the effect it has on their lives.

“So, for one, reducing the shame and stigma that we have in our community around substance users,” Ms Kelly said about the meeting’s goals.

“Like one of the speakers suggested, people don’t set out to get themselves a drug dependence: it’s a slippery slope and a rocky journey to get down that track.

“However, a lot of members of the community see them as lower class citizens and you know there’s a lot of shame and stigma associated with that.”

She said treating drug and alcohol addictions as health problems, rather than criminal ones, helped keep people alive.

“We need politicians that are interested in reform rather than retaining power,” Ms Kelly said.

“Reform is about reviewing our drug policy, reviewing what other countries are doing and working, and then hopefully put some of those practices into place here.

“It doesn’t mean we condone the use of illicit substances; it means that people are making these choices, so we would like to keep them safe in the meantime and provide information and support to families so they can walk that journey.”

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