Home > Lockdown and beyond: a COVID insights report.

Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs. (2020) Lockdown and beyond: a COVID insights report. Glasgow: Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs.

PDF (Lockdown and beyond a COVID insights report)

Families affected by substance use live their lives under extreme pressure in normal times. These are far from normal times. We are told to ‘Stay Home – Save Lives’, as if ‘Home’ is a place of safety and security, where harm and risk to yourself and others is reduced. Yet this is not the situation for families harmed by alcohol and drug use. Home can be a place of heightened harm and risk, and indeed during the COVID pandemic this situation has worsened considerably.

Substance use has increased, and some in long term recovery have relapsed. There are many reasons for this, including increased stress and anxiety, changing work and leisure patterns, and a reduction in available support – including formal services and informal social connections. Compounding this situation, substance use which was hidden or less harmful to families has become more visible and present within the home. Alcohol and drug consumption may previously have taken place outside the home, whilst other family members were outside the home, or at lower levels so easier to conceal and less damaging to others. This has all changed with everyone being at home together for extended periods. We may not be in lockdown in Scotland as we write, but millions are close to this situation. Many of the previous supports, protective factors and release mechanisms for families are not available, be that going out to work or university, going to the gym or for a swim, attending a local group, catching up with a group of friends, or even having a chat with your hairdresser.

Compounding this situation is the ongoing difficulty accessing alcohol and drug treatment services (as well as mental health services), for individuals and families who are now desperate for help. This could have been an initial ‘blip’ in the spring, as services had to close their physical doors and adapt to new virtual service models. However service access problems have now been sustained over a long period and across many areas of Scotland. This affects both existing service users and for people who are newly concerned about their alcohol or drug use, so seeking help for the first time. In our view, this is risking lives as people have no choice but to continue hazardous and harmful behaviours until they can access the treatment and support they need and want. At Scottish Families, families are our inspiration and our motivation, and they are always at the heart of our work. We have walked alongside them and shared their sadness, anger, frustration and anxiety throughout these months as the realities of life under COVID have become clear. These are not stories which are visible in the media or in government briefings, which advise everyone to ‘Stay at Home – Stay Safe’.

This report tells our shared COVID story through the form of open letters from families and team members, statistical reports from our Helpline and other services, and information on our COVID response throughout the pandemic. We hope it is a report we will only have to write once, and that it offers insight into the stark realities for families of life in lockdown and beyond.

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