Turin, 28 May 2020. Socio-economic conditions, as well as the practical and psychological challenges that families face during difficult times can represent risk factors and fertile ground for the development of drug-related problems among young people. It is therefore critical in such circumstances to pay the proper attention to families, in particular to their specific needs, in order to understand how they can be better supported in reducing the risk factors associated to drug use and to avoid the exacerbation of already complex situations.
Scientific evidence has indeed demonstrated the potential role of the family not only in facilitating the onset of problems related to the use of substances, but also in the prevention and rehabilitation processes. However, considering the scale, the continuous evolution of drug consumption modalities among youth, as well as the rapid changes that characterize modern societies, the family does not always have adequate tools to prevent and recognize behaviors considered at risk and to possibly intervene if these behaviors result in drug use or in the progression towards substance use disorders.
It is well known that stigmatization and the consequent isolation that often affects families involved in substance abuse could be a major deterrent to seeking help. Lack of information on available services as well as lack of adequate financial and socio-cultural resources are further factors that create barriers to families’ involvement. At the same time, the collaboration between families and professionals working in this field is recognized to be as one of the most effective elements in the prevention and in the recovery process. In this regard, being aware of the extensive amount of research that has already been conducted on this topic, we believe that additional research could enhance knowledge on how to maximize the positive role that families could play in attenuating or preventing factors that can increase vulnerability of young people and on the interventions that have proven to be effective and sustainable for family responsive policies and practices.
In this framework, UNICRI is carrying out a project, with the support of the Department for Antidrug Policies of the Government of Italy, which aims to gather useful information to strengthen the role of families in drug use prevention and recovery among youth through research activities in three specific countries: Italy, Lebanon and Tunisia. Such activities include the organization of focus groups involving representatives of relevant institutions, national experts and key stakeholders currently operating in the field of drug prevention and treatment at the national level.
In this regard, on 28 May 2020 the online Focus Group on the needs of families in the prevention of drug use among young people was held with Lebanese stakeholders. The consultation involved representatives from governmental institutions and civil society organizations currently operating in the field of drug prevention and treatment.
The focus group meeting was articulated in two sessions. During the first session the discussion focused on the most relevant issues identified through the analysis of the data collected from the questionnaire administered to the stakeholders prior to the meeting, while the second session focused on the identification of priority needs and concrete actions on how to improve the offer of services and the interventions targeted to families in order to strengthen their protective role and to respond more effectively to their specific needs.
By adopting a context-specific and people-centered approach, the pilot study aims to identify what are both the common and the culturally unique elements that can support families in getting more effectively engaged with social and health services and with the community at large, so as to protect future generations from drug use.