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Thai family support (TFS) : working with families of young substance users in primary health care

By Adchara Khamchiangta


Living with substance users negatively impacts upon family members in many ways, and distress is common. Despite these deep and wide-ranging impacts, supportive interventions for family members in their own right are rarely available. Thailand has substantial and growing problems with substance use, and there is very little support or family members of drug users, especially in community setting. The Thai Family Support (TFS) program was designed for implementation in primary health care units (PCUs) in Thailand. TFS was based on two approaches with existing empirical support in Western contexts—the 5-step method and CRAFT—with adaptations to a Thai setting that included integration with Buddhist practices. Its aims were to increase well-being of family members, reduce mental distress, improve family relationships between family members, and engage substance users in behaviour change.\ud \ud A small-scale randomised controlled trial on TFS with a Delayed Treatment control was conducted, with assessments at 8 weeks (Post 1) and 20-24 weeks (Post 2). Structured interviews with participants and PCU staff and an examination of five case studies augmented the quantitative results. Mixed Model Analyses were applied to quantitative outcomes, and thematic analysis was used for qualitative data. Thirty-six participants (18 in each of Immediate and Delayed Conditions) were recruited. A significant difference at Baseline between the two conditions was observed on the Thai GHQ-28 and Gender, but it was not possible to statistically control for these effects. There was a significant Time by Condition interaction on the Thai GHQ-28, WHOQOL-BREF-THAI and FAS, reflecting greater improvements in the Immediate condition by Post 1, but with the Delayed condition meeting or exceeding that effect by Post 2. On FES Cohesion and Conflict, there were falls across conditions at Post 2, but only Cohesion also showed a Time by Condition interaction, and that effect was consistent with a delayed impact of treatment. Overall, TFS by PCU staff in the Delayed Condition gave similar results to TFS conducted by the researcher, supporting the viability of its dissemination to standard health services.\ud \ud Qualitative data also confirmed the quantitative results. Most participants reported physiological and psychological improvements even though their substance-using relative did not change their drug use behaviour. After completing TFS, participants reported increased knowledge, group support and sharing feeling, having positive patient-professional relationship, having greater knowledge of substance abuse and social support. In particular, they changed their behaviour towards the substance user, resulting in improvements to family relationships. PCU staff gave similar responses on the efficacy of TFS, and saw it as feasible for routine use, although some implementation challenges were identified. The cultural adaptation and in particular the religious activities, were recognised by participants and PCU staff as an important component of TFS to support psychological health and well-being.\ud \ud Findings from this study showed the impact of substance use on family members and difficulties that they experienced when living with the substance users, resulting distresses and burden that may develop severe mental health disease. Drug use policies should be modified to support family members and response to their needs effectively for early prevention. This study also gave preliminary support for application of the TFS program in rural primary care settings and identified some policies that will be required for it to be disseminated more broadly

Topics: substance use, drug use, drug misuse, family intervention, drug use intervention, family support program, family of drug users, care giver of substance user
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2012
OAI identifier:

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