Listening to young people

Having just completed data collection, SSAC PhD candidate Liz Normand is looking forward to tackling the next phase of her project: data analysis. A qualitative study supervised by Dr Robyn Dwyer and Professor Suzanne Fraser, the project’s key research questions are:

  •  How do marginalised young people in contact with alcohol and other drug (AOD) services understand their AOD use?
  •  How do they define ‘addiction’?

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In total, 20 young people were recruited from three youth-specific AOD services. Participation in the study involved a semi-structured interview between thirty minutes and two hours long. Participating young people were invited to talk about their experiences of AOD use, the services they encountered and their ideas of ‘addiction’.

The interviews offer important insights to how marginalised young people are characterised by AOD services and, in turn, how their perspectives on AOD use and addiction are shaped by contact with services. Participants in this study were eager to share their stories, and they often voiced the hope that by doing so they would be able to benefit others experiencing similar life challenges.

Alongside insights into the many, sometimes competing, meanings given to AOD use by marginalised young people, the analysis will also explore how social structures and environments (particularly AOD services) influence the meanings these young people give to addiction, and the various understandings they have of ‘harm’ and ‘safety’ concerning AOD use. Furthermore, it will explore the challenges and life goals participants identify in the interviews, an area of scholarship that has so far received little attention.

Preliminary findings will be presented in October this year at the Melbourne SSAC Symposium.