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Heroin and crack addicts cost their families nearly £10,000 every year

Monday, November 30th, 2009 Heroin and crack addicts cost their families nearly £10,000 every year

Heroin and crack cocaine addicts are costing their families almost £10,000 every year in lost pay, theft and financial support, according to the UK Drug Policy Commission.

In addition to this, families spend an average of £450 on healthcare, either for their loved one or themselves.

The study found that of the 1.5million adults supporting drug using relatives, 50,000 were living with a heroin or crack addict, almost 130,000 cared for a loved one who is dependant on cocaine and one million helped with a relative that regularly users cannabis.

There are estimated to be 1.5 million adults supporting drug users in the UK shouldering a financial burden of £1.8 billion every year, according to the UKDPC.

Without this financial support from user’s families, it is estimated it would cost the government an additional £750 million every year.

Families help their relatives with the cost of buying food, rent, healthcare, debts and funding detoxification programmes. Often they provide cash to their relative to buy more drugs, but are oblivious to this as it is taken without their knowledge or consent.

The study estimates that the costs may be much higher and far reaching as many family members are losing out on earnings after being forced to take time off work to look after a drug using relative.

There are also long-term psychological implications on the family members, the users siblings or own children.

Alan Maynard, UKDPC commissioner and Professor of Health Economics at the University of York and specialist adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Health said: “Because of the stigma associated with drug dependency and addiction the true impact on families is hidden. This shame and distress associated with relatives’ drug use exacerbates the family’s stressful experience and can also hinder the useful contribution that families make to the recovery of the drug user.

“Our study provides an insight into the large burdens these families face in terms of costs linked to day-to-day care, as well as costs linked to stolen money and property. Policy needs to catch up with the realities of their life because their contribution as families is filling an important gap.”

Vivienne Evans, chief executive of Adfam, said: “We welcome this new research and its emphasis on families, as so often their supportive care — and the effects on their lives — are forgotten or ignored. We have seen some progress in national policy over the last couple of years but these new statistics should really make people stand up and take notice at a local service delivery level. We hope that this will encourage more families to access support in their own right.”

Chief executive of the UKDPC, Roger Howard, said: “Drug dependency places an intolerable strain on families as well on our health and social care system and those pressures will only soar unless we get the right services in place for these families in their own right. Our research shows families provide a bedrock of support, and that investment in them is likely to save the state — including the NHS and criminal justice system — money in the long run.”

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