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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 (ONS) revealed that in 2020 there were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning, the highest number since records began in 1993.

In the year before, 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.”

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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.

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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.”

DrugFAM helps anyone who contacts them, there is no fee and no waiting list, just a community of those affected by similar life experience of trauma and addiction. Currently, 71% of DrugFAM’s family support workers and 75% of the helpline/support group volunteers have their own experience of the problems for which they give support, whether that be a family member suffering from substance misuse, bereavement due to substance misuse or overcome an addiction disorder themselves earlier in their lives.

    DrugFAM Support Services

      *   0300 888 3853 telephone helpline (9 am to 9 pm, 365 days a year), email communication, one-to-one consultations by phone or video, weekly support groups and specialist bereavement support.
      *   DrugFAM also provides education and awareness presentations in community settings such as schools. These are delivered online or as physical presentations.

    How You Can Help
    For World Kindness Day (13th November) DrugFAM are looking for donations, please text KIND 5 or KIND 10 or KIND 20 to 70560 to donate:

      *   £5 would pay for a Bereavement Support Pack for a family bereaved by addiction.

      *   £10 to provide half an hour of vital Helpline Support for someone in need.

      *   £20 to fund towards a tailored one-to-one session, delivered by one of our qualified Family Support Workers.
      *   £80 would enable DrugFAM to support one family for a whole year. (To donate this amount by text please text KIND 20 four times to 70560)

    To find out how you can help support the charity please visit: https://www.drugfam.co.uk/support-us/.