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Arch Public Health. 2012 Jun 6;70(1):11. doi: 10.1186/0778-7367-70-11.

Experiences of parents of substance-abusing young people attending support groups.

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Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Antwerp, Campus Drie Eiken, Universiteitsplein 1, BE-2610, Antwerp, Belgium.



Substance abuse puts a burden on the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals and their families, particularly parents. Parents of substance-abusing young people are in need of professional or informal support and information. Potential and easy accessible sources are support groups. We explored the experiences of parents of substance-abusing young people attending support groups regarding several topics related to the substance-abuse of their son or daughter, the impact on their lives and their views on social support.


In this small-scale qualitative study based on in-depth interviews, we interviewed parents of substance-abusing young people focusing on their experiences concerning having a substance-abusing relative and attending the support group.


All parents displayed feelings of stress and strain. They appeared to be highly satisfied with their participation in a support group. The expert status and knowledge of the facilitator and the provision of accurate information in the support group was also much appreciated. They were however dissatisfied by the attitude and knowledge of their GP.


Our findings suggest that parents benefit from joining support groups, particularly in terms of emotional and social support and the practical information they received.

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