Addiction support group remains a shining star for many in Limerick

It IS a lonely road for those who develop an addiction and strive to get out of this black hole.

But what is often forgotten is the effect of addiction on their loved ones. This is where the Northstar Family Support Project comes in.

They support people who are trying to cope with the substance abuse of a family member in the city and county, through education, learning about different ways to support the addict and taking charge of their own health and well-being.

Joe Slattery, coordinator for Northstar, said service users experienced money theft, physical and mental abuse, exhaustion helping someone who didn’t want to be helped.

“There has been drug-related debt intimidation, with drug traffickers contacting family members in search of money. Also, the shame and embarrassment of having photos of a loved one in the newspapers or begging in the street. It also affects the extended family like uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. Sometimes the addict will have children and a social work intervention is needed, which causes more stress and worry for family members, ”said Joe, who began the interview by saying that the addiction subsides. comes in many forms and affects most people.

“I would go so far as to say that we are all addicted to one thing or another. Any activity that activates the chemical pleasure of dopamine in the brain has the potential to be addictive i.e. exercising, eating, having likes on your social media feeds, sex / porn, make the big deal at work, get the big story, go shopping etc. … The list goes on and on, ”Joe said.

He says there is still a real stigma towards individuals and families affected or trying to cope with substance abuse.

“Because of the stigma involved, people will do everything possible to resolve the issue within the family home before seeking help. They could have faced this very stressful situation for a long time before reaching out. It is not uncommon for people to show up emotionally exhausted, feel ashamed and embarrassed that their family is in this situation. Primarily seeking answers on how to care for a family member with little interest in their own care.

Since Northstar, based in John Street in the city, was founded in 2010, how has the specter of substance abuse changed?

“Only a very small percentage of the country is actively engaged in the use of heroin or methadone. This cohort of people receives a lot of publicity because the drug has a devastating effect on the user and is highly visual in society due to the lack of supervised facilities that will allow people to use it in a private and safe environment.

“In my experience, the most abused drugs are cocaine, cannabis, black market pills and legal drugs – alcohol, prescription antidepressants – invented by the Rolling Stones as ‘little helpers for mothers’ – and over-the-counter tablets containing codeine in them. “

Joe says that as long as people in society are hurting, drugs will have a market.

“Medicines provide a quick and effective response to people who don’t want to feel or relive a difficult experience. The difficulty with this approach is that the negative long-term effects far outweigh the positive short-term effects. Tolerance and dependence increase, which means more medicine is needed to produce the same effect. The more chemicals you put into your body, the more negative the consequences for your mental and physical health.

“Outside of this cohort of people, I think a number of substances commonly known as party drugs have become widely accepted by young adults in Irish society, namely cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy. It should also be emphasized that not all people who use recreational drugs sporadically are at risk of becoming addicted. “

Joe points out that alcohol causes more harm to society than any other “combination” drug. He says it’s a mitigating factor in marital breakups, driving offenses, domestic violence, court appearances and A&E visits.

Covid has made more people in society suffer.

“Now more than ever, services like the Northstar are needed. As Covid progressed, more and more people lost their jobs, routines and financial stress, forcing some people to struggle to find a way to reinvent themselves. Unfortunately, this caused some people to drink more to get through the day and feel a sense of loneliness. The past 18 months have exasperated the problem of drug and alcohol abuse for many people.

But Joe and his colleagues will do everything they can to support families affected by drug addiction.

The Northstar Family Support Project will host its 12th Annual Service of Remembrance and Hope at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 20.

The service will be hosted online due to concerns related to Covid and they hope that past and present participants of their service, partner organizations, families and those who have lost loved ones to addiction will join them.