Reclaiming traditional place-based identities and the implications for maximising recovery

First published: 30 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Dr Stephen Parkin

Research Fellow

Dr Stephen Parkin is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Primary Care at The University of Manchester and is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for Greater Manchester. He has worked in the field of substance use since 1995 as a qualitative researcher and has conducted over 20 applied studies of drug-related issues throughout the UK. His published work focuses upon the sociology of substance use and has advocated a harm reduction approach in all applied and academic publications to date. Parkin has also published material on the use of visual methods for applied (harm reduction-related) research and has curated exhibitions of his visual data at several international events. He currently leads the qualitative component of a mixed methods study of chronic kidney disease and the way in which proteinuria and blood pressure may be more effectively managed within primary care settings.

Aims: This study aimed to identify enablers and barriers to the development of recovery potential as part of drug treatment intervention in an area of West Yorkshire.

Design: This paper summarises aspects of the qualitative component of a mixed methods study of recovery and related intervention.

Setting: Two drug dependency treatment centres located in an area of local authority within West Yorkshire.

Participants: 41 individuals attending two treatment centres. The cohort represents the ‘mid-adulthood’ stage of the life-cycle (average age = 35) in which injecting careers were 16 years in average duration.

Intervention: All respondents were service-users of local treatment programmes (typically involving Opioid Substitution Therapy).

Measurements: Semi-structured interviews with the cohort focused upon (amongst others) the rationale / motivation for attempting recovery; barriers / facilitators to recovery and individual goals / ambitions during / following treatment.

Findings: Findings describe relationships between recovery/treatment and the ‘reclamation’ of former (pre-drug using) identities that are intrinsically linked to the geographical location and economic history of the respondents’ residential/familial settings. These findings differ from existing ‘identity-related’ literature regarding drug-related recovery (that typically focus upon ‘spoiled identity’ and/or constructing ‘new’ identities) due to respondents’ emphasis upon the re-appropriation of former work-related, family-focused roles and responsibilities. In addition, these shared goals reflect class-based, gender-focused roles possibly regarded ‘traditional’ in the geographic places of data generation.

Conclusions: The development of recovery capital should involve greater consideration of the geographic places (and associated sensemaking) in which service-users reside. Such consideration maximises ‘intervention relevance’ and may enable ‘meaningful productivity’ amongst those seeking recovery from drug dependency.


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