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Research Proposal: Substance Abuse as a Family Illness

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Prohibited substance use is one of the major problems in the Philippines to date. In fact, in the early period of the present administration, it focused its attention on resolving this issue which resulted in the development of strategic plans by various agencies focusing on how drug addiction can be suppressed or reduced.  

However, though it may seem common sense to believe that drug addiction has a detrimental impact on the family, why are there so few treatment options available to them? Apparently, most families suffer the weight of a family member’s addiction and support for them is not greatly discussed especially in our country. The individual using substances has a distinct impact on each family member, which may include, but is not limited to, unmet developmental requirements,  damaged attachment, financial difficulties, legal issues, emotional pain, and occasionally violence being committed. 

Drug abuse might result in disruption even to the most peaceful and loving households. Conflict might become normal as family members battle to engage with the person who is abusing the illegal substance. For instance, mistrust might begin to arise since the individual who abuses drugs acts aggressively or commits grave things that affect the family. In worst cases, the family relationship is shattered because of the negative changes brought on by addiction, as communication becomes more difficult resulting in frustration.  

As a former case manager at a local Drug Rehabilitation Center in Quezon City for more than three years, I have witnessed such family conflicts. For instance, families wish to ignore or cut ties with the person involved in substance abuse due to fear, anxiety, and stigma that affects the whole family. Unfortunately, as I observed the current state of treating substance abuse herein,  there are limited treatment options for the families as victims themselves. As family members 

attempt to control the addictive behaviours and cope with the condition, many unhealthy patterns may form. Their perpetual disappointment may lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and co-dependency – the state of being overly concerned with the family member while spending little time and energy on your own needs, which must undertake medical attention. Most of the rehabilitation centres in the country offer family meetings that involved psychoeducation that is mostly centred on persons who used drugs (PWUDS). But is this helpful for family members who are silently suffering by themselves? 

The purpose of my study is to explore how addiction influences family members, to bring about insights into their experiences, and to know the appropriate psychosocial support or other behavioural health services they need. It aims to provide an investigation of substance abuse as a family illness in order to crystallise a framework that depicts how the family dynamics are affected by the addiction and what could be the treatment options for them. 

There are three main reasons that trigger my interest to take this particular study: First, I would like to describe family members’ experiences of having a substance abuser in the family since their experiences could help health professionals regarding the improvement of the current mental health services. With extensive research, I may be able to formulate appropriate treatment interventions and propose mental health programmes for substance abusers’ families. 

Second, I aim to determine the effects of the drug dependents’ abuse on their families’ mental health status to identify factors that may be causative to negatively affect families’ mental health status. 

Third, due to a minimal number of studies that focus on the mental health of families involved with substance abusers, this can build knowledge and raise awareness not only for the affected families but also for future researchers that could be interested in the same topic. 

Regarding the methodology of this study, I intend to use mixed-method research, both qualitative wherein to conduct in-depth understanding through relying on the direct experiences of the participants, and quantitative in measuring their levels of mental stability.

Margareth Mikaela C. Lasam is a master’s degree student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

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