This paper offers a conceptual overview of a neglected field. Evidence is presented to suggest that, globally, addiction is sufficiently stressful to cause pain and suffering to a large but uncounted number of adult affected family members (AFMs), possibly in the region of 100 million worldwide. A non-pathological stress-strain-coping-support model of the experience of AFMs is presented. The model is based on research in a number of different sociocultural groups in Mexico, England, Australia and Italy and aims to be sensitive to the circumstances of AFMs in low and middle income countries and in minority ethnic and indigenous groups as well to those of majorities in wealthier nations. It highlights the social and economic stressors of many kinds which AFMs face, their lack of information and social support, dilemmas about how to cope, and resulting high risk for ill-health. The public sector and personal costs are likely to be high. Attention is drawn to the relative lack of forms of help designed for AFMs in their own right. A 5-Step form of help aiming to fill that gap is briefly described. Family members affected by addiction have for too long been a group without a collective voice; research and action using the model and method described can make a contribution to changing that state of affairs.
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