Families in Dundee and Fife have shared their stories of loved ones’ drinking – as a helpline service reports 84% rise in alcohol-specific calls throughout lockdown.
Fifer Jenny* is concerned about her partner who had “been on a bender” since being furloughed.
He hadn’t paid his rent, so the landlord locked the doors and left his belongings in the hallway.
He keeps phoning her looking for money and is living with different friends each night.
Susan* from Dundee is worried about her sister who has tried to take her life three times during lockdown.
She has been hospitalised twice and her alcohol use is increasing.
She was in withdrawals and attempted to access support, but she can’t get a reply from her local service.”
Dundonian Anne* is concerned about her husband and her own wellbeing.
She says he drank for years but she was able to go and see her friends to get away from it. However, she was stuck at home with him during lockdown.
She says he is “nasty” and she doesn’t like him like that.
Sarah* from Dundee is concerned about her brother’s wellbeing.
He was drinking for more than three weeks and tried to stop which resulted in seizures.
He went to A&E and was discharged with no support, leading to him not coping well and drinking again.
All areas of Scotland affected
These are just a few of the stories from people the Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD) has supported throughout the pandemic.
The charity runs a helpline to support family members whose loved ones are struggling with drug and alcohol use.
Between April 2020 and March 2021, demand for the helpline rose 66%; there was an 84% increase in alcohol-specific calls.
The helpline received calls from all 29 of Scotland’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership areas – covering urban, rural and island areas, and both deprived and affluent communities.
SFAD say the stories shared by individuals and families contacting the helpline point to:
- Increased alcohol use by people of all ages during lockdown, including those on furlough and home working
- Increased levels of violence and aggression in the home, including family members feeling coerced to buy alcohol
- Chaotic living situations, including job loss, homelessness, relapse and mental health concerns (including suicide attempts)
- Lack of access to alcohol treatment services – both for those already in treatment and those who are seeking help for the first time
‘Impossible to reach treatment’
The announcement today that 1,190 Scots have died through alcohol-specific causes in 2020 reflects another year of heartbreak for families affected.
SFAD’s CEO, Justina Murray, says: “A common theme has been how impossible it is to reach alcohol treatment and support when you need it.
“Individuals and families need immediate access to high quality alcohol treatment and support when they need it and where they need it.
“Then we might just start saving lives rather than counting deaths.”
*Names have been changed.