Help For Families

Information and support for families of users

Living with a family member who has a problem with alcohol or drugs can be hard and can affect the whole family. Sometimes people don’t get help because they feel shame talking about alcohol or other drug use in their family. If you are worried about someone in your family who is using alcohol or other drugs, it can be helpful to get some information and support.

If you want information or support or are worried about someone’s alcohol or other drug use call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) in your state.

Helping a user to help themselves

There are things you can do to help a family member who is thinking about changing their alcohol or other drug use:

  • talk with them to help them identify what they like and what they do not like about their alcohol or drug use.
  • go with them to your local Aboriginal Medical Service, health clinic or hospital to get some information about stopping or reducing alcohol or drugs, and to find out what treatment programs may be suitable.
  • if there is an alcohol and drug treatment service in your area, try to encourage them to visit this service to see what it is like. You can offer to go with them for support. The family member can find out whether this service might suit them, and how comfortable they feel about getting help from this service.
  • encourage them to go with you to see your local GP. The GP may be able to provide some help with alcohol and drug treatments, or make a referral to another service.

Alcohol and drug treatment services

Alcohol and drug treatment services provide help for people who use alcohol or drugs – to manage their use, and help to stop using. The type of alcohol or drug treatment service a person needs will depend on the person, the type of drug they are using and their own personal situation.

The main types of treatment services are:

  • Withdrawal management – allows a person who is hooked (dependent) on alcohol or drugs to safely stop. Withdrawal is supervised by experts who make sure the person is safe and comfortable. Withdrawal services can include rest, counselling, good nutrition, and medications (if necessary). Some services also offer withdrawal management at home as an outpatient service.
  • Counselling – a trained counsellor can help people to understand and explore issues around their own substance use. Counsellors will support people to make changes. Counselling sessions can include groups, partners, family, friends, or be one-on-one with the counsellor.
  • Residential rehabilitation – a person lives away from home and away from the people, places and activities that may contribute to their alcohol or drug use. Programs can include education, counselling, recreational activities and developing life skills.
  • Support groups – groups of people who have similar alcohol or drug issues come together to talk about and share their experiences, strength and hope. These groups are often able to work out common problems and help one another.
  • Services for young people – can include residential rehabilitation, counselling, withdrawal management and mobile patrols. These services cater for the specific needs of young people.

Services that have a family focus

Many alcohol and drug services understand the important role that families can play and encourage family involvement in supporting a person with an alcohol or drug problem. Some services such as Saranna women and children’s program can offer residential programs for women with children. There are also parenting support services such as those provided by  the Council for Aboriginal Alcohol Program Services (CAAPS) which seek to support and strengthen family relationships in a way that is culturally secure.

Here are some examples of other programs that have a family focus:

New South Wales

Boomerangs parenting program
Marrin Weejali Aboriginal alcohol and other drug programs


Mallee District Aboriginal Services Drug & Alcohol Counselling
Family support program
Breakthrough: ice education for families

Western Australia

Aboriginal family support service


Pormpur Paanthu Aboriginal Corporation
Apunipima Cape York Health Council

Northern Territory

Alcohol and other drugs – kids in focus
Piliyintinji-ki stronger families (PSF)

South Australia

Strong fathers, strong families
Strong men,strong families


Rullanih Teggana Drug and Alcohol Service

Click here for a complete Knowledge Centre listing of services for families.

Supporting women during pregnancy

Families and whole communities help to raise children. Caring for children starts before a baby is born. It is important that women who are pregnant keep themselves healthy and well and are given good support so that their baby has the best start in life. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs while pregnant can harm the unborn baby. For women who are pregnant or planning to have a baby, not using alcohol or drugs is the safest choice for growing a strong baby.

Dads are very important in supporting women to not drink or take drugs while they are pregnant. Cutting down their own use is one way of giving support to their partner.

They can also provide a lot of support by:

  • making sure their partner is eating well and getting plenty of rest
  • helping to take care of other kids.

Some medicines can harm the unborn baby. If you are taking medicine, make sure you ask your doctor or health care worker if the medication is safe to take during pregnancy.

Source: WA Drug and Alcohol Office (2013) Healthy pregnancies and alcohol – Strong Spirit Strong Future

Keep you and your baby healthy by:

  • having regular checkups with your healthcare worker
  • eating healthy tucker
  • drinking plenty of clean water
  • getting lots of rest and sleep
  • getting some physical activity every day
  • yarning with your grannies, your mums, sisters, cousins and friends about babies and how to keep them strong and healthy.

Talk with your health worker or doctor if you are pregnant and would like help with ideas or tips to cut down or stop your alcohol and drug use.

Click on these links if you would like more information on any of these topics

Knowledge Centre Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) resource

Stay strong and healthy: pregnancy resources for Aboriginal women

Your guide to dealing with teenagers and grog

Parent and family drug support: information and support pack for Aboriginal parents and families


Information on this page is taken from:

Bullen L, Casey W, Childs S, Ferguson J, Jack P, Keats J, Miller L, Simpson L, Walker E, Winstock A, Woods J, Strong Spirit Strong Mind team (2012) General principles. In: Lee K, Freeburn B, Ella S, Miller W, Perry J, Conigrave K, eds. Handbook for Aboriginal alcohol and drug work. Sydney: University of Sydney:1-64

Parent Drug Information Service (2009) Parent Drug Information Service information and support pack for parents and families. Perth, WA: Western Australia Drug and Alcohol Office

Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Office (2013) Healthy pregnancies and alcohol : Strong Spirit Strong Future Perth, WA: Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Office

Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Office (2010) Strong spirit strong mind: Aboriginal ways of reducing harm from alcohol and other drugs, strong babies. Perth, WA: Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Office

Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Office (2013) Strong Spirit Strong Future: promoting healthy women and pregnancies resource for professionals. Perth, WA: Western Australia

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