Community drugs problems: A lifespan perspective

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Dr Hilda Loughran, School of Applied Social Science, UCD

Dr Mary Ellen McCann, School of Applied Social Science, UCD

This paper will present the findings of a community drugs study conducted in Dublin funded by the NACD.  The study adopted a community perspective on drugs problems and employed community participative research methods to explore the experiences of three communities as they attempted to deal with drugs issues from 1996 to 2004.

The paper will consider the applicability of the life span construct to community drugs problems.  It will demonstrate how the notion of adaptation over time is useful in understanding communities as it is in understanding individuals and families.

The three communities in the study were Ballymun, Crumlin and Bray.  Each of these faced dealing with the drugs problems from different starting points, each had different trajectory of development in terms of responses to drugs and each had a unique experience of dealing with the problems and possible responses to drugs.  However even within these differences it is possible to identify some shared experiences.  We will discuss some of these shared experiences.  Methadone maintenance will be used as a case illustration by tracking the development of this treatment response from the initial reluctance of communities to have methadone service through their fight to get such a service and on to their disillusionment with the services as provided.

In addition to looking at drugs problems in communities over time we will also comment on the need to engage communities in research activities.  We will offer some reflections on the process as we experienced it and in particular refer to some of the ethical considerations that emerge as individuals within communities attempt to explain their lived experiences from a more theoretical perspective.


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Dr Mary Ellen McCann