- •The average time undertaken by affected family members (AFMs) to seek help after discovering about the relative substance use problem was 2.6 years.
- •It took an average of six years for 58% of this research population to seek support from the time their relative started to use substances.
- •A high percentage thought the substance use of their relatives was just a transient problem, or that they could cope with the problem by themselves.
- •A high percentage of care for AFMs provided by women and/or offspring.
This study proposes to describe family members in the city of Sao Paulo who are seeking support in mutual self-help groups to deal with a substance misusing relative.
Five hundred participants (one participant per family) completed a structured questionnaire collecting socio-demographic information, length of time taken to seek help, and where they sought help. Participants were recruited from the mutual self-help group ‘Amor Exigente’ in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Parents of substance misusers counted as the largest group of family members. It took an average time of 3.7 years for the family members to discover their relatives’ substance misuse. 42% had then sought help immediately; it took an average of 2.6 years for the remaining 58% of the sample to seek some form of support. A belief that the substance misuse of their relatives was just a transient problem or that they could cope with the situation by themselves were among the most indicated reasons for delay in seeking help.
Findings stress the importance of implementing services that take into account the difficulties families have in finding help to deal with the substance misusing relative.