Skip to content

Dumfries and Galloway Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP)

Further Advice and Support for Friends and Family

Supporting a loved one with substance use can impact on careers, finances and relationships. It is important to remember that treatment and recovery is a process for the whole support system as well as the individual. It is vital that friends, family members, or anyone who is supporting their loved one with substance use, has access to support in their own right. 

It can be helpful to talk to other people who know what you are going through. For more information about local support groups in Dumfries and Galloway please click here to learn more about the Being There Family Support Service.

There are also national organisations which you may find useful:

National Drug and Alcohol Support for Friends and Family

SFAD - Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs

SFAD support families and friends across Scotland who are affected by someone else’s alcohol or drugs use


Adfam offers families help with finding support.


DrugFAM offers phone and email support to people affected  by their loved ones drug or alcohol use.


FRANK is a support service that provides information about drugs, plus advice for people who use drugs, and their parents or carers. 

Families Anonymous

A world-wide fellowship of family members and friends affected by another’s abuse of mind-altering substances, or related behavioural problems.

Coping strategies and looking after yourself

If you have a friend or family member with a drug or alcohol problem, it is common to feel helpless and frustrated. It is important to make sure that you are getting the help, support and advice that you need to cope as best as you can. Below are some suggestions for coping strategies which may be beneficial. 

Get Support 

You deserve support in your own right. It is normal for you to feel lots of different emotions towards your loved one, so it is important that you have someone you can talk to about what you are going through. Meeting other people who have the same experiences an be extremely helpful. Not only do they relate to what you are going through, they may also have other coping strategies to share that have been successful.

Maintain Clear Boundaries

Setting and maintaining clear boundaries is important. Think through your limits, communicate with them clearly and follow through with what you said you will do. Some common areas to think through in terms of boundaries with your loved one are: money, running errands, covering for them, allowing them in your home when under the influence, driving them around when under the influence and having them live with you. There also may be boundaries which are important to you depending on your circumstances, especially if children are involved. 

Self Care

It is vital that you think about your own needs. Often when supporting a loved one with substance use, your life can revolve around them and it can be a long time since you thought about your own wellbeing. It is important that you do things that you enjoy, this can be as simple as: having ‘me time’, mindfulness, connecting with friends, exercise, taking a break from your loved one and doing hobbies that you enjoy.

Develop a Response Plan

If certain events do occur where you feel unsafe, it is important to have a plan in place to keep the situation under control. Substances can drive people to act in ways that aren’t who they truly are. Make preparations by speaking to friends, family or professionals – having that support and a response plan in place will help keep you safe and de-escalate the situation.

What to do in a crisis situation

A crisis situation is a stressful situation where there has ben a disruption or breakdown in a person’s normal or usual patterns of functioning. A crisis often cannot be resolved by a person’s customary problem-solving. 

In a severe state of crisis, the loved one may become violent, self-harm or engage in dangerous behaviours. Developing a response plan for these situation is essential to keep yourself safe. Below are some suggestions on what you can do in a crisis situation. 


Aggressive Behaviour

No matter who the family member is, it is important to keep yourself safe especially when the person is showing aggressive behaviour or signs of violence. 

It is important that you:


  • Look for cues to developing aggression
  • Try to remain calm
  • Give your loved one physical and/or emotional space
  • Keep yourself safe - leave the room, know where the exits are
  • Call for help - have important phone numbers saved on your phone to contact support networks or the police if needed

If you are concerned about your safety at any point and believe you are in danger, you should always phone the police by calling 999.


Mental Health Worries

If you are concerned about your loved ones mental health and believe they might do something to harm themselves you can call the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS). This is a nurse led team and part of the community mental health team in Dumfries and Galloway. They provide a 24 hour service working every day of the year. There are community pscychiatric nurses and senior health care support workers in the team. 

The CATS Team:


  • Provide urgent psychiatric assessment and home based treatment
  • Offer urgent crisis assessments for people who have or thought to have a mental illness or mental disorder and who are in crisis and require and urgent same day assessment
  • The urgency is usually due to safety and risk factors including deteriorating mental health and risk to self or others
  • CATS assess people in their own homes but can also see people in a variety of other settings including clinic, the police station, Accident and Emergency (A&E) or the infirmary
  • CATS work with people over the age of 16
  • CATS cover the most of Dumfries and Galloway with the exception of Wigtownshire. There is a seperate arrabgenebt fir crusus assessment in this area and liason with the Galloway Hospital in Stranraer which is arranged via te local community mental health team based in Stranraer

CATS can be contacted via the main Infirmary switchboard on 01387 246246.


Having difficult conversations

Talking to someone about their substance use can be a difficult conversation for anyone. It can cause worry and stress and the person may not open up or respond in the way you want them to, which may make more arguments. 

How do I start the conversation?

To start the conversation is is important to prepare in advance, this will help you be specific and clear when you are having the conversation:

  • Plan and write down what you would like to say
  • Look up information about alcohol and/or drugs, this may help you feel more confident to have the conversation

Choose the moment

Think of the best time to talk to the person:

  • When is the best time to talk to them? Is it during the day? After work?
  • Would it be better to speak to them alone? Would other people in the room make the situation worse?
  • Where do they feel the most relaxed to speak?

Make sure you listen

Listening is just as important as talking. If you are open to what the person is saying and their thoughts and feelings it will help you understand their point of view:


  • Use open questions and encourage them to talk will avoid the conversation coming across as a lecture or attack
  • Try to acknowledge how the person is feeling and let them know how you are feeling too
  • Pay attention to their tone of voice and body language as this can help you understand the feelings behind their words
  • Try to listen to what is being said without interrupting, even if it does become painful to hear

What to avoid in conversation

When you are having a conversation, try not to argue, even if you hear something you don’t agree with.

In the conversation try to avoid:

  • Interrupting the person
  • Raising your voice
  • Being dismissive
  • Blaming and finger pointing
  • Being defensive
  • Not listening to what the person is saying