Warning drug addiction will cross generations of Dundee families

A Dundee drugs worker has warned early intervention is required to end a multi-generational cycle of addiction and abuse in the city.

Sharon Brand from Recovery Dundee told the Scottish Affairs Committee more must be done prevent future generations from sliding into drug abuse, particularly vulnerable young people whose families have a history of addiction issues.

Ms Brand, who was addicted to heroin for seven years, said she was placed on methadone for three years but managed to quit with the support of a friend who was already in recovery.

She now runs Recovery Dundee and says there is little support available in Dundee for problem drug users or those at risk of falling into addiction

She told MPs: “I reached out to social work for support for me and my children.

“They supported me by looking after my children and leaving me to it. There wasn’t any additional support.

“Luckily for me I have a friend in recovery, she’s five years ahead of me, and she mentored me.

© DC Thomson
Sharon Brand now runs Recovery Dundee.

“My children suffered quite badly because of the effect of social work intervention.”

Ms Brand said many young people leaving the care system may be exposed to hard drugs if they move into homeless accommodation.

She said: “We’re now supporting young people who are placed out of the care system straight into homeless units where there are people who have had an addiction for 20 or 30 years.

“Kids are going into these places without any support and the people there don’t know how to support the people they’re housing.

“We’ll be sitting here in another 10 or 20 years telling you exactly the same thing because the cycle is continuing and interventions needs to come in earlier.

“We’re supporting kids now who’ve come from three generations of addiction who are not addicted but you can see it’s going to happen. Unless that’s addressed then nothing is going to change.”

She added many people are being given methadone for decades.

Ms Brand said: “There’s people who have been on methadone since they were 15, 30 years now, there’s two generations in each family who are either on methadone or a chaotic user.

“I’ve not got a great opinion of methadone. I think done right, for a very short period, it could work but I think there are a lot more and better ways to help somebody get past that stage.”

As well as Mr Brand, the committee, chaired by Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart, heard from three other people with experience of drug abuse.

Hanna Snow, 26, from Aberdeen told how she went “cold turkey” to withdraw from  methadone by getting a family member to lock her in a house.

“You are giving people methadone prescriptions and pumping people full and they are walking around like zombies,” she said.

“And they think that is OK. They’re feeding their misery.

“Open more rehab centres, put them into the rehab centres, detox them, show them that they can live a live without drugs, they can have happiness and feelings and emotion and joy.”

A Dundee City Council spokesman said: “The council’s approach is that no young person leaves care to go to homeless accommodation – there is a housing protocol to ensure that this does not happen.

“We are not aware of any recent situation where this has happened, but we recognise that care leavers’ circumstances can change quickly and that is why continuing efforts are made to help support them in what is a very challenging time in their lives.

“Officers from the council’s children and families service and neighbourhood services work together from the start and help to match the young person to a suitable property.

“Outreach work continues to help support them after they move into their own home for the first time and throughcare teams are very responsive to the ongoing needs of care leavers.

“More young people are now remaining in care longer and receiving support over an extended period of time

“Our whole systems approach is also helping to reduce the number of care leavers who end up in prison.

“We would be happy to meet with Sharon Brand and discuss the work that is going on in the city.”