A parent’s perspective

We have used Tony’s story as an illustration of the possible issues parents may go through with an opioid dependent child. If you are in the UK and have a story you would like to share, please get in touch. Tony Trimingham is the founder and CEO of Family Drug Support, an Australian charity that provides support and education for families with a loved one dependent on drugs, including heroin/opioids. Families all over the world are affected by someone else’s substance use, but regardless of location many of them have similar experiences and have the same need for support.

Tony and his family have been on this journey themselves, having lost their son Damien to a heroin overdose. Here, Tony talks about his battle to support his son through his dependence, what others can learn from his experience and that of the many families he has helped through his work with FDS.

Throughout Damien’s battle with opioid dependence, Tony and his family experienced a widespread lack of support and understanding of what families go through. They found it difficult to get information about dependence or advice on how they could help their son. In the aftermath of Damien’s tragic death in 1997, Tony founded FDS with a group of volunteers who had also been affected by drug use; this model, whereby families set up their own support services, is commonly replicated elsewhere, including in the UK. FDS’s goal was to help families like Tony’s deal with drug dependence in a way that strengthens relationships and achieves positive outcomes. He is now a high-profile advocate for families of drug-dependent people in Australia.

Tools for families
As well as providing a 24-hour helpline for families of those dependent on heroin/opioids, FDS has developed educational courses and support tools to help families on their journey. Click below to download some of their fact sheets and advice, with the kind permission of FDS.

Communicating with your family member | Supporting someone through detox | Harm reduction for families | Harm reduction for the individual | Preventing infectious diseases

There is also a variety of information for families available online from Adfam, a UK charity working to improve the quality of life for families affected by drugs and alcohol. This includes web pages on How do I know if they’re using drugs? | Why do they use drugs/alcohol? | Is it my fault? | How can I cope with their behaviour? | What can I do to help? | Where do I get the help I need?

Adfam also has downloadable handouts on Coping with Conflict and Setting and Keeping Boundaries.