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Helping the addicts of today and tomorrow

University Of Bristol : 26 March, 2007  (Technical Article)
A study exploring how trauma is linked with subsequent drug misuse has been published by Bristol University. The study,
The study aims to gain an understanding of drug misuse, treatment and aftercare and the processes involved. It also explores how ex-drug misusers themselves understand potential and actual links between their early life experience and subsequent problematic drug use.

Current and ex-clients, and staff members of the SP, were invited to participate in the study by completing questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and group interviews.

Many participants in the study had been affected by loss, trauma and other life disruptions. Mark’s story is typical of the stories told and clearly shows how his early suffering is linked with subsequent drug misuse. At the age of nine, on Christmas Day, he witnessed the death of his seven-year-old brother in a road accident.

Mark said: “It separated my parents and I watched it slowly kill my father. It had a real effect on the whole family.”

By the age of 29 Mark was spiralling out of control and after the breakdown of his own marriage and separation from his children, heroin became his emotional painkiller.

Mark realised he needed help and turned to the SP, which provided him with the possibility of a new beginning. Mark is just one of the many people who has been helped by the SP.

The project has actively reduced substance related harm to individuals and their families, and its presence in the community has been recognised as a major factor in promoting community safety in Southmead and the surrounding areas.

The study recommends that:

Young people should be educated about potential dangers of drug use by local ex-drug misusers rather than outsiders with little understanding of local residents’ lives and the area.
There should be further opportunities for clients to contribute to the running of the project, as this will provide routine and responsibility.
Education about the impact of negative life events on subsequent drug misuse could increase public understanding and thereby reduce stigma.
Drugs workers and counsellors should be educated to focus on the client’s identity development and the impact on stigma of a person’s view of themselves.
Parenting classes should be offered to enable clients to learn about the needs of their children and develop the necessary skills.
Relationship skills training should be offered to help clients build and improve relationships with significant others.
Dr Kim Etherington, co-author of the study and Senior Research Fellow of the Graduation School of Education, said: “This study provides evidence to support the case for the continuation and expansion of the invaluable work of the Southmead Project in helping the drug users of today and preventing the drug users of tomorrow.

“Further work needs to be carried out but the Project is constantly hampered by the need for core funding.”

Mike Peirce, Chief Executive of the SP, added: “‘The potential and realisation of drug addiction can take years to develop. Many factors contribute to drug dependency, not least an abusive and traumatic childhood.

“Service provision therefore needs to include appropriate therapeutic interventions along with the appropriate amount of time for the wounds of trauma to truly heal. This is not the case at present.”
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