The health impact on families of drug users, including premature death, is the “hidden cost” of the drugs crisis, a voluntary support body has said.
The National Family Support Network said more needs to be done to stop the “devastating and preventable” deaths caused by drugs, which have continued to increase to new heights.
Speaking ahead of its annual religious commemoration, NFSN CEO Sadie Grace said that each of the 786 drug-related deaths in 2017 was the child of parents their organisation offered support and comfort to.
The figures, compiled by the Health Research Board, show that the number of such deaths have continued to rise since 2010, when 607 deaths were recorded.
The NFSN works with families – parents, siblings and children – of those in drug addiction and those who have died from drug use and helps families around drug-related intimidation.
The network holds its 21st Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope, at 7.30pm on Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Seán MacDermott Street, in Dublin's north inner city.
The event, which attracts people from across the country, is due to be attended by the Taoiseach’s aide-de-camp, National Drugs Strategy minister Catherine Byrne and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
“We are more conscious than ever that we have much, much more to do, as an organisation, a community and as society to put a stop to these devastating and preventable deaths and to support the families affected,” Ms Grace said.
Referring to the death toll in 2017, she said:
This figure is devastating and reflects the 786 families who have now been left to grieve the loss of their loved ones.
Over the last 21 years, she said the network had seen the significant impact these deaths had on families.
“Living with a family member who has an addiction to drugs/alcohol whether or not a bereavement has taken place, is a major life stressor," she said.
“We all know of friends and peers who have become sick, stressed, anxious and experienced both physical and emotional health impacts as a result of living with a family member in addiction.”
She added: “These families represent the hidden costs of this crisis and when family members pass away prematurely due to health impacts brought on by living with familial addiction, we would argue that these too are drug-related deaths.”
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is funding research into the health impact on families.