Family members affected by a relative’s substance misuse looking for social support: Who are they?

19 de dezembro de 20144min0

Helena M.T. Sakiyama, Maria de Fatima Rato Padin, Martha Canfield, Ronaldo Laranjeira, Sandro Sendin Mitsuhiro

Received: May 28, 2014; Received in revised form: November 24, 2014; Accepted: November 24, 2014; Published Online: December 11, 2014

Publication stage: In Press Accepted Manuscript


  • 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.



Sobre a UNIAD

A Unidade de Pesquisa em álcool e Drogas (UNIAD) foi fundada em 1994 pelo Prof. Dr. Ronaldo Laranjeira e John Dunn, recém-chegados da Inglaterra. A criação contou, na época, com o apoio do Departamento de Psiquiatria da UNIFESP. Inicialmente (1994-1996) funcionou dentro do Complexo Hospital São Paulo, com o objetivo de atender funcionários dependentes.


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