Addiction: One term, many different experiences

Two-people-talking-logoAfter successful data collection in Melbourne, Bendigo, Sydney and Northern Rivers, interviews for the SSAC research project ‘Experiences of addiction, treatment and recovery’ are now complete. The interviews comprise material from 60 participants who consider themselves to have an alcohol or other drug (AOD) habit, dependence or addiction. Commenting on the experience of conducting some of the interviews, research associate Dr Kiran Pienaar said, ‘For me, a highlight was engaging with people and listening to their stories, which were wonderfully rich and varied. Several participants said they were grateful to have the opportunity to share their stories and contribute to the study. A couple of people even wrote to us afterwards reflecting positively on the experience of being interviewed’.  She added, ‘We’re pleased that we managed to attract a diverse group of people ranging in age from 18 to 59, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and from both metropolitan and regional areas. All described ongoing or past use of a range of licit and illicit drugs including alcohol, cannabis, crystal methamphetamine, heroin and prescription drugs. We also have variation across occupation, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and treatment experience’.

The next phase of the research involves analysing the interview data and preparing the material for the project website on people’s lived experiences of AOD addiction or dependence. Scheduled to be launched in November 2016, the website, titled will present anonymised extracts from the interviews in textual, audio and re-enacted video form. A key aim is to present a wide range of experiences in an effort to move beyond the narrow range of stories of decline, collapse and redemption that tend to dominate popular discourses. The website also aims to show how people cope with addiction and live meaningful and rich lives. It seeks to offer more nuanced accounts of regular AOD use that resonate with people’s diverse experiences and that challenge stigmatising assumptions about addiction.