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Covid 19’s Drink & Drugs Pandemic: A Family Tragedy

The sharp acceleration of drug-taking and alcohol misuse during the pandemic, with people becoming more isolated and dependent on substances, sadly resulted in a dramatic increase in associated deaths. Most recent figures from The Office for National Statistics revealed that in 2020 there were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning, the highest number since records began in 1993. In 2019, 7,565 deaths were recorded related to alcohol-specific causes, the second highest since the data time series began in 2001.

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips MBE, founder of charity DrugFAM and volunteer Bereavement Support Worker comments: “Every death is a tragedy impacting families and communities. We mustn’t forget the families that are affected by addiction, we understand their needs and DrugFAM is here to support them. Don’t be on your own. Pick up the phone.”

The charity provides a lifeline to families, friends and partners who have been bereaved by substance misuse or are affected by someone else’s addiction. Elizabeth founded the Berkshire-based charity back in 2006 in memory of her son Nick, whose struggle with heroin addiction led to him tragically taking his own life at the age of 27 after relapsing. DrugFAM now operates nationwide and offers online support groups, one-to-one consultations and holds the Annual National Bereavement Conference.

The charity has seen a major increase in demand for their services, the number of bereaved families they now support has doubled compared to pre- pandemic when they were supporting around 45 bereavements a year, since then they have supported 160 families.

DrugFAM Statistics
In the last quarter, the charity has received 3510 calls to their helpline – double the number during the same period in 2020.
This year DrugFAM will handle around 10,000 support emails – an increase of 150% since 2019.
In 2021 they will have delivered in excess of 600 one-to-one consultations – 233% increase from pre-pandemic 2019.
Demand for the charity’s support groups has increased by 60% over the last 12 months.

Charity Trustee Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments:
“The substance misuser could be using, in recovery or sadly deceased, but a loved one’s misuse of drugs, alcohol or gambling has a ripple effect and can affect families, friends and colleagues for years to come through several generations. It’s shocking but I’m not surprised that the rise in the demand for DrugFAM’s services has increased exponentially over this time. The pandemic has left a lot of us feeling cut-off and isolated and, more than ever, anyone impacted by another person’s misuse needs to be supported for the sake of their own mental well-being. Family services in this area are very rare, usually only as an add on to services for people with the addiction disorder. As such they are poorly attended often because the family have their own unique needs. DrugFAM uniquely champions these needs.”