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Breaking the Cycle

Too many children across the UK will miss out today. They'll miss a meal, miss an opportunity to play with other children or miss going to school. Or maybe, like Tom in the video below, miss opening a present on their eighth birthday. And why? Because one or both parents are substance misusers.  

Drug and alcohol misuse causes much hidden harm, bringing chaos to children's lives. In 2005, ZCT identified the destructive cycle of drug and alcohol abuse in families as an issue where we could make a positive difference. Addaction, the UK's largest specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity, was the partner we chose to deliver this work. Together we developed the 'Breaking the Cycle' (BtC) programme. 

A family-centred approach

Breaking the Cycle aims to reduce and ultimately stop intergenerational substance misuse. The programme provides an individually designed care package, which takes into account the needs of the whole family. The workers are
non-judgemental and always put children’s safety first with the focus firmly on building trusting, open relationships, so families feel able to talk honestly about their problem.

Above all, based on the successful delivery of pilot projects and rigorous external evaluation over the years, we know Breaking the Cycle works! The right intervention at the right time can transform family life for the children involved, as well as preventing them from going on to misuse drug and alcohol themselves.  

Since 2005, ZCT has awarded around £2.5 million to Addaction to deliver the programme. Breaking the Cycle is now a fully sustainable programme and an integral part of Addaction's service delivery offering to families. Our funding of the programme will conclude in 2019.

The hard facts

Children of substance misusing parents are seven times more likely to use drugs themselves as adults

Between one and two million children in the UK are living with families where at least one parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol

  • Background to our support of Breaking the Cycle

    In 2005, ZCT identified the negative impact on the children of parental drug and alcohol misuse as an issue where we could make a positive difference.  

    Initially for a four year period, ZCT awarded £1,226.000 to the Breaking the Cycle programme to transform the lives of children with drug addicted parents. Addaction, the UK's largest specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity, was the partner chosen to deliver this work to help to try and break the prevalent cycle of the children themselves growing up to have a problem with substance misuse.

    Since 2005, ZCT has now awarded around £2.5 million to Addaction to deliver the programme. Our funding will conclude in 2019.

  • The approach

    Breaking the Cycle, as the name suggests, works to break the destructive cycle of intergenerational substance misuse through a programme of intervention by family workers who support the whole family where a parent misuses drugs and/or alcohol. 


    BtC treats the whole family 'holistically' in their home and marks an exciting step forward in the landscape of recovery and the treatment of substance misuse. Another important feature of the programme is that Addaction's family workers actually support the parents and children in the family home itself, making it much easier for families to derive maximum benefit from the programme. 

    As a result, clients report having a more supportive relationship with Breaking the Cycle workers than with those from other organisations. Results have indicated that this form of intervention, ie focusing on the family as a whole, is the secret to breaking the cycle of intergenerational substance misuse. 

  • Evaluation - read all about it!

    Over the period of the programme two major evaluations have been carried out by the University of Bath. Both of these indicated the significant positive impact of Breaking the Cycle.  

    You can download the full report here and the executive summary here.

Alison's story

Mother and baby on mat Addaction

When Alison, a young mother from Wandsworth, was  at the end of her tether, Breaking the Cycle stepped in. You can download and read her story here.

Quick read

Young Charlie with book Addaction

For a snapshot of our partnership with Addaction and the growth of Breaking the Cycle download our flyer.

Want to know more?

For more details of Breaking the Cycle and our partnership with Addaction please contact: