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Advice and support for the families
and friends of cult members
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The Drugs Analogy

Parents, other family, friends and associates of those trapped in cults (or helping those who have recently left cults, and who have been damaged by the experience) report of a "living bereavement". This is the sense of loss, similar to grieving for the death of a loved one, but with the difference that the person being mourned is still alive. It normally falls into one of two categories:

  1. The cult member may be absent, secreted from their family and friends (and the wider world) in the dissociative, abusive world of the cult.
  2. Just as bad, sometimes worse, these cult members may be able to see friends and family outside the cult, but the change in personality (induced by psychological conditioning) makes them unrecognisable to those who know and love them.

Unfortunately, those who have not experienced the harrowing ordeals of those families and friends afflicted by cults may find it difficult to fully understand these difficulties. But the parallel of drug abuse and its horrendous addiction is something which society takes seriously, and which people may understand better. Its similarities to the abusive world of cults, and its impact on families, friends and wider society, are many.

Whilst drug and alcohol abuse have a chemical addiction element, cult membership could be considered to be "social addiction", rather like addiction to gambling. From our experience of helping victims, their families and their friends over more than thirty years, we have observed that:

  1. The victims of drug abuse and cult abuse suffer dissociative experiences, and their scope for decision-making and human interaction is severely limited.
  2. The people surrounding cult victims and drug victims will give poor advice and support, because they are also victims of the same experience.
  3. The self esteem of all individuals within addictive environments will be lower than is healthy.
  4. The capability to make balanced decisions about lifestyles and careers will be severely reduced.
  5. The social circles of drug addicts and cult victims give less chance to meeting people with a variety of interests and world views.
  6. The drug addict and cult victim both put all resources, including time, money and energy, into the source of the addiction. This means they are poorer and more prone to being tired or lethargic.
  7. Both drug addiction and cult involvement present health risks.
  8. Less time and money tends to be available to spend on a healthy diet.
  9. Addicts and cult members are more likely to develop illness, have limited access to proper healthcare, and suffer malnutrition than people in mainstream society.
  10. There is less awareness, in both the drug addict or cult member, of the development of illnesses and mental health problems.
  11. Lack of sleep, sometimes severe and enforced sleep deprivation, in both cultists and drug addicts, increases the risk of psychological problems.
  12. There is an increased risk of chronic addictions developing and getting worse. Addictive personalities will often get worse with drug and cult involvement rather than staying stable.
  13. There is a serious risk of chronic or malignant personality disorders developing.
  14. There is a serious risk of chronic stress or depression developing.
  15. There is a serious risk in the development of chronic mania or manic depression.
  16. There is a very real and dangerous risk of the development of psychosis, paranoia and schizophrenic behaviour. These can be especially alarming and chronic problems which outlast the drug addiction or cult abuse itself.
  17. Neither drug addict nor cult victim leaves all of their problems behind when they ditch their abusive and addictive substances, environments and fellow-victims. It can take years to recover, depending on the length and depth of abuse suffered, and sometimes families and friends should be aware that damage suffered may be permanent.
  18. The vast costs of rehabilitation, treatment, and attempts to prevent drug abuse and cult abuse, are paid for by the general public through taxes, by charities through donation, and by families and friends through personal sacrifice. The drug producers, suppliers, pushers and addicts - and the cults, their gurus, their masters and their slaves - pay nothing towards this drain on society.
  19. The perpetrators of drug crimes and cult crimes are able to make money and spend it on enriching themselves and causing havoc.
  20. Since they pay nothing towards the cost of cleaning up after their mess, they are the worst of social parasites and criminals.

These are some of the observations The Family Survival Trust has made over the years. More research and rehabilitation, and prevention education, has been given to the subject of drug addiction and abuse. For example, many studies are beginning to make clear the link between chronic psychosis and the consumption of "skunk", whereas there has been little or no acknowledgement of the existence of cult abuse by the United Kingdom authorities, let alone its effects.

at a glance

Cult membership is similar in many ways to drug addiction.

Both can cause financial problems.

Both can cause physical health problems

Both can cause long term psychological problems.

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