THE co-founder of a Helensburgh group which supports those with a family member struggling with addiction says setting it up was “the best thing I have ever done”.

Ann-Marie Slee Macduff established the Helensburgh Family Support Group with Jane Methven in November 2018 after the Garelochhead pair met while dealing with the trauma of addiction within their own families.

A mutual understanding of the difficulties experienced, and the stigma associated, with their respective situations eventually blossomed into a lasting friendship which has brought benefit to both them and others who have joined since.

A year on, they are hoping to build on their success in the Helensburgh and Lomond community by reaching out to more people who may not even realise that they are in need of help.

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Ann-Marie said: “We’ve worked really hard since last year through blood, sweat and tears to set this up.

“People think it’s just the addict who needs help, but I have been through it from a very young age and I have seen the destruction of what it can do to people.

“It is the best thing I have ever done.”

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has risen in each of the last five years and the latest figures, from 2018, were the highest since records began, having more than doubled in a decade, to 1,187. Nine of those were in Argyll and Bute.

Ann-Marie and Jane’s family support group, which works closely with sister organisation the Welcome In – Helensburgh’s first recovery café – aims to decrease substance abuse, increase family functioning and encourage loved ones into treatment.

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Originally operating as a drop-in centre, the group now runs craft-based training, activities and outings, as well as offering a chance for a one-to-one chat.

The group has nine members, and along with other organisations like the Welcome In and national charity Addaction – which last week backed calls for the decriminalisation of possession and consumption of controlled drugs – support options are available to try and curb the recent crisis.

“Both of us had experienced addiction through members of our families and had suffered years of anguish,” Jane said, “as there was no help on offer to support us through these harrowing times.

“The feeling of helplessness and loneliness had a huge effect on everyday life and the stigma surrounding addiction resulted in us being isolated and withdrawn from society.

“We both felt we couldn’t approach family members or friends as no one could possibly understand how we felt with feelings of embarrassment and self-blame.

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute drug charity backs decriminalisation call

“After becoming involved with Addaction it seemed like a natural step to start involving families giving them support and advice in a place where they would feel comfortable and not alone.

“Since founding the group, members have been very appreciative and have stated that they would simply be lost without the support of this group.”

She added: “The group has enabled individuals to accept the realities of addiction which in turn has resulted in better relationships between the families and their loved ones.

“Even just for someone to say to us “you really know how I feel” is very rewarding.

“It’s still early days but we are determined to reach out to the people out there who need the support of a friendly group.”

The family support group meets every Wednesday night, from 5pm to 7pm, in Helensburgh Parish Church hall.

All are welcome to attend or call 07584 034885 for more information.

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