Drug Addiction and Families

 Drug Addiction and Families
 Marina Barnard,
 Jessica Kingsley
 ISBN 1843104032,


This book is beautifully written. Barnard’s material comes from a research project that conducted 182 interviews with families of problem drug users in Glasgow, writes Elspeth Loades.

Relatives – parents, siblings, children – relate (in undiluted Glaswegian dialect, with occasional translation) – their tales of neglect, violence and danger, that blighted their lives and left permanent scars.

Barnard believes that drug workers especially must respond to the damage done, particularly to young children of drug users.

They must resist the political correctness of the “being a drug user doesn’t necessarily mean being a bad parent” mantra in favour of putting the needs of the child first, being realistic about the user’s capacity for change, and calling on social work intervention early on.

Barnard is committed and persuasive. The lives of these children are deeply miserable. But she neglects to explore the fact that the neglect that the children experience arise mainly because of danger associated with the criminality of drug use.

It left me wondering whether the Swiss experiment – a radical plan to maintain and rehabilitate drug offenders through injection room and heroin prescription programmes after law enforcement and courts were deemed to have failed – has any evidence about the welfare of children whose parents are part of their heroin prescription programme.

Elspeth Loades is a local authority planning manager

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