How to “arm” your family against drug abuse

Lyndell Richards is a Family Support Facilitator with Drug ARM Queensland. Picture: Contributed

Burnett Today recently caught up with Lyndell Richards, a Family Support Facilitator with Drug ARM, an initiative helping families and regional people struggling with substance abuse through awareness, rehabilitation and management (ARM) they aim to help people, families and communities impacted by alcohol and other drugs to achieve positive transformations.

Q. What is Drug ARM and when and how did this organisation come to fruition?

A. Drug ARM is a specialist, not-for-profit, non-government organisation that reaches out to and improves the lives of individuals, families and communities impacted by alcohol and other drugs. In 2002, we were established as a separate charity and expanded from solely awareness, advocacy, education and prevention activities to outreach and treatment services. Our vision is for flourishing people and communities living free from the harms of alcohol and other drug use. We are lucky to be supported by charitable community members and service funders.

Q. What services does Drug ARM cover and how can people in the Burnett access them?

A. We offer information, awareness, referral and family support services in the Burnett. The program I work in is Breakthrough for Families Queensland which helps people who are concerned about a family member or significant other’s substance use. We have flexible delivery options, which means that people can access support in their homes, a safe space in the community, telephone or online. You can also drop in to one of our local information sessions which are run regularly in community spaces and online. Our Library and Information Centre is also a useful resource and people can access it by going on our website . If you’re not sure what works best for you, you can give our Central Intake team a call on 07 3620 8880 and we can help guide you in the right direction.

Q. Why did Drug ARM see a need in providing such a service to the South Burnett?

A. We’ve always seen that there was a real need in regional Queensland for quality, specialist alcohol and other drug services and known that our model of service is well equipped to meet that need. In 2018 we were able to enter the South Burnett with funding support from the Queensland Government’s Action on Ice initiative. The initiative recognised the effect that alcohol and other drug use has on families, carers and significant others and an investment was made in the Breakthrough for Families Queensland program to provide greater supports across Queensland.

Q. What is the first step for drug affected friends and family members to take if they are seeking help?

A. The first step is always the hardest. Often the first step is information seeking which itself can be overwhelming due to the sheer volume of information that is online. A good place to start is by speaking to your family GP, going to a trusted source such as our library, or dropping in to one of our online or face to face community information sessions. If you are ready to seek support then I would suggest picking up the phone and calling our Central Intake. Sometimes a listening and caring ear can be a vital lifeline. Taking those first steps can really change your life so please reach out if you need help.

Q. Is regional Queensland’s dangerous drug problem increasing? If so why?

A. Overall the use of dangerous drugs in regional Queensland is similar to that of major cities. However, there is a concerning trend that drug-induced deaths are increasing in regional and remote areas more rapidly than in cities. Alcohol consumption is also significantly higher in regional and remote areas, and it continues to be the drug that brings the most people in to our treatment services. Cannabis use is more widespread and frequent, and in remote areas people are 2.5 times more likely to use meth or amphetamines. This is due to a range of factors including social isolation, rates of unemployment, access to housing and cultural settings (acceptability of drinking). It’s likely further compounded by barriers to help-seeking like stigma (which can be a big problem in our small country towns) and proximity to primary and specialist services.

Question corner

My daughter has experimented with a number of party drugs over the years including marijuana and ecstasy. I don’t condone it, but she was really more of a social user than anything else. Since the pandemic has brought about all these job losses and work shortages she spends all her time at home and I can tell her drug use has increased to her smoking marijuana almost daily. I am worried her drug use will affect the well being of my two young grandchildren but I don’t want my daughter to pull away from me. How should I approach the subject and let her know I’m concerned for her?

– Concerned mother

Hi there,

This is a challenging situation. It can be really difficult to tell if your child’s social or recreational drug use turns in to something more serious, particularly if you haven’t been exposed to drug use in other contexts before. Every situation is different and what works for one person may not be right for another. That being said, there are some strategies you can use when

approaching the subject with your daughter. Firstly, communication is key. Choosing the right time to talk is important – try to find a time when you daughter is not under the influence and her children aren’t likely to come in to the room. Approach the subject respectfully – ask questions and listen. Try using ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements. Being open minded and reserving judgement can be helpful in opening up the conversation. If your daughter is happy with her use, resist trying to force her to get counselling or other rehabilitation. Just let her know that you are concerned for her and that you are there for her if she needs you. It can be really hard as a parent to see our children experiencing challenges and resist the urge to jump in and solve them. We all want the best for our children but it’s important to keep in mind that they are adults and have the right to make their own decisions about their lives. We might not like their choices, but we have to respect that they are entitled to make them. This is also a critical time to reflect on your boundaries. You have a right to set respectful and reasonable boundaries in your own home – supporting your safety and values. Another vital element is self-care. It can be hard to put our needs first, but try starting small. Something as simple as 10 minutes with a cuppa and a puzzle book to refocus and refresh. Eating well, some exercise and a little self-care improves your ability to cope. Finally, reach out if you need it. You don’t have to go through it alone.

Lyndell Richards is a Family Support Facilitator with Drug ARM. Drug ARM provides face to face, telephone and online support and information for family members, carers and significant others in South Burnett. For access to Drug ARM’s Library and support services, or to donate, visit or call 07 3620 8880 or call Drug Arm’s alcohol and drug 24/7 confidential support service on 1800 177 833.