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A new support group to help families of methamphetamine and other drug users has formed in Oamaru.

Last year, Safer Waitaki, in conjuntion with other healthcare, community and social services, conducted a survey of what services were available for families and users of methamphetamine and drew feedback from people they knew were affected by the drug.

In addition to long waiting lists for support services, they found an overwhelming number of people struggled with a lack of family support.

Oamaru family law barrister and Safer Waitaki member Nicky Sinclair had noticed an increase in methamphetamine use in Oamaru and seen the effects it had on the children, parents, grandparents and extended families of users.

“It’s not a big number of people using meth, but it’s a huge flow-on effect for families,” Ms Sinclair said.

“We are seeing a previously capable parent crippled by methamphetamine and losing their way.”

Methamphetamine users’ children were no longer their priority and, in some cases, grandparents became fulltime carers for their grandchildren.

“We see families take an emotional and financial toll,” she said. “It’s a price everybody pays.”

But there was a way to help turn things around.

Studies had found families had the most influence on drug users and were the key to getting a good outcome for them, Ms Sinclair said.

But family members also needed their own support.

Oamaru lawyer Ngaire Alexander said families often struggled to find the balance between supporting their affected family member and enabling the addiction.

The support group would help families “pick up the pieces”.

Ms Sinclair said it would also be beneficial for families with members at different stages of addiction and recovery to share advice.

“We know people from all walks of life are affected by drug use, not just one area of the community.”

Southern District Health Board Specialist Addiction Services social worker Jeremy Stewart would initially co-ordinate the group, offering advice and coping strategies.

The initiative to set up a Family Drug Support Group came from an Australian model of the same name.

The new Family Drug Support Group would start on February 23 and would support all families affected by drugs and was not strictly for methamphetamine.

Anyone interested in joining the group should contact Ms Sinclair at nicky@nickysinclair.nz.