Breaking Bad in Barnstaple - The use of legal highs in North Devon: A proposed mixed methods study

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 10 June 2019


The aim of the research is to measure and conceptualise legal high use in North Devon. It is anticipated that the results will inform local policy and treatment initiatives.


A mixed method approach will be used to answer the research questions from a variety of perspectives. These include an online survey and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a subset of self-selected participants from the online survey.


The survey will obtain data from participants located in North Devon. The Board Market Rent Area [BMRA] of North Devon has been chosen as a convenient administrative county boundary as its council collects population data linked to health, housing, employment and education.


Eligibility criteria is 18 years of age or older and resident in the administration area of North Devon BRMSA [Broad Market Rent Area]. Assuming a 5% margin of error and a confidence level of 95%, and a population estimate of 78,020, then the quantitative study sample must be between 370 and 383. For the qualitative part of the study the sample size will be guided by the concept of saturation.


A structured online survey assessing demographic status, drug consumption motives, and experiences. In depth interviews collecting participants’ perspectives of the social and psychological phenomena of the lived experience of using legal highs.


Descriptive statistics such as frequencies and cross-tabulations will be conducted to describe the sample. A multiple sorting task (MST) will be used to specifically manage multifarious phenomena emerging from the interviews and allow categorisation and re-categorisation of experiences. Preliminary patterns in the data will be analysed to elicit prevailing themes consistent with the research questions.


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Miss Carolyn Hurley