Kelly, J. F., Fallah-Sohy, N., Cristello, J. V., & Bergman, B. G. (2017). Coping with the enduring unpredictability of opioid addiction: An investigation of a novel family-focused peer-support organization. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment , 77, 193-200.
BACKGROUND: Opioid overdose deaths have become a major public health crisis. While efforts have focused mostly on helping opioid-addicted individuals directly, family members suffer also from the grave and enduring unpredictability associated with opioid addiction and often play a vital role in helping addicted loved ones access care. Little is known, however, about resources to help affected family members. Here we describe results from the first quantitative and qualitative investigation of a free and growing support organization for family members of addicted individuals ("Learn to Cope" [LTC]; www.learn2cope.org), organized around three key questions: 1. Who participates, how often, and in what ways? 2. What are the demographic and clinical histories of their addicted loved-ones? 3. How do participants benefit?
METHOD: Survey with LTC members at meetings and online (N=509; 95% participation rate).
RESULTS: 1. Participants were primarily middle-aged mothers (77%) of opioid-addicted adult male children, attending LTC meetings several times per month, using LTC online resources several times a week, and meeting with LTC members between meetings. 2. Their addicted loved-ones were mostly male (73%), addicted to opioids (88%), with a criminal history (70%), with just under half (41%) having suffered at least one prior overdose. Almost three-quarters (71%), however, reported their loved one was "in recovery", with 30% having a year or more. 3. Benefits since beginning participation included gains in understanding and coping with addiction, feeling better able to help and communicate with their loved-one, and reductions in self-blame and stress. Of members trained in Narcan administration (66%), 86% had received training at LTC meetings; LTC members reported having deployed Narcan for over 44 overdose reversals.
CONCLUSION: The growing availability of LTC may provide a needed source of support and information for family members of opioid-addicted loved-ones and may help reduce overdose deaths through Narcan training and distribution.
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