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Social Identities as Pathways into and out of Addiction.

Dingle GA, Cruwys T, Frings D - Front Psychol (2015)

Bottom Line: Almost all participants described their TC experience in terms of belonging to a recovery community.Participants on the identity loss pathway aimed to renew their pre-addiction identities after treatment while those on the identity gain pathway aimed to build aspirational new identities involving study, work, or family roles.The qualitative analysis yielded a testable model for future research in other samples and settings.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Psychology, The University of Queensland , St Lucia, QLD, Australia ; Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, The University of Queensland , Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

ABSTRACT
There exists a predominant identity loss and "redemption" narrative in the addiction literature describing how individuals move from a "substance user" identity to a "recovery" identity. However, other identity related pathways influencing onset, treatment seeking and recovery may exist, and the process through which social identities unrelated to substance use change over time is not well understood. This study was designed to provide a richer understanding of such social identities processes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 adults residing in a drug and alcohol therapeutic community (TC) and thematic analysis revealed two distinct identity-related pathways leading into and out of addiction. Some individuals experienced a loss of valued identities during addiction onset that were later renewed during recovery (consistent with the existing redemption narrative). However, a distinct identity gain pathway emerged for socially isolated individuals, who described the onset of their addiction in terms of a new valued social identity. Almost all participants described their TC experience in terms of belonging to a recovery community. Participants on the identity loss pathway aimed to renew their pre-addiction identities after treatment while those on the identity gain pathway aimed to build aspirational new identities involving study, work, or family roles. These findings help to explain how social factors are implicated in the course of addiction, and may act as either motivations for or barriers to recovery. The qualitative analysis yielded a testable model for future research in other samples and settings.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Thematic analysis of interviews with clients in therapeutic drug and alcohol treatment showing changes in social identities over time.
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Figure 1: Thematic analysis of interviews with clients in therapeutic drug and alcohol treatment showing changes in social identities over time.

Mentions: Two main identity-related “pathways” into addiction emerged in participants’ descriptions their life experiences before they became addicted. In the first pathway, participants held positive social identities prior to addiction and felt that these were lost as a result of, or alongside of, their increasing engagement in substance use and the activities related to obtaining substances. This resulted in the development of an identity which was stigmatized due to drug use, or one “spoiled” by criminal activity. In contrast, in the second pathway, participants described negative early life experiences and profound social isolation due to a lack of positive social connections and identities. For this group, the development of an addiction brought with it a new valued identity as a substance user, along with a sense of belonging and acceptance within a substance using social network. The major themes are represented in the thematic map in Figure 1. We describe the major themes along with quotations from the interviews below.


Social Identities as Pathways into and out of Addiction.

Dingle GA, Cruwys T, Frings D - Front Psychol (2015)

Thematic analysis of interviews with clients in therapeutic drug and alcohol treatment showing changes in social identities over time.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4663247&req=5

Figure 1: Thematic analysis of interviews with clients in therapeutic drug and alcohol treatment showing changes in social identities over time.
Mentions: Two main identity-related “pathways” into addiction emerged in participants’ descriptions their life experiences before they became addicted. In the first pathway, participants held positive social identities prior to addiction and felt that these were lost as a result of, or alongside of, their increasing engagement in substance use and the activities related to obtaining substances. This resulted in the development of an identity which was stigmatized due to drug use, or one “spoiled” by criminal activity. In contrast, in the second pathway, participants described negative early life experiences and profound social isolation due to a lack of positive social connections and identities. For this group, the development of an addiction brought with it a new valued identity as a substance user, along with a sense of belonging and acceptance within a substance using social network. The major themes are represented in the thematic map in Figure 1. We describe the major themes along with quotations from the interviews below.

Bottom Line: Almost all participants described their TC experience in terms of belonging to a recovery community.Participants on the identity loss pathway aimed to renew their pre-addiction identities after treatment while those on the identity gain pathway aimed to build aspirational new identities involving study, work, or family roles.The qualitative analysis yielded a testable model for future research in other samples and settings.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Psychology, The University of Queensland , St Lucia, QLD, Australia ; Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, The University of Queensland , Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

ABSTRACT
There exists a predominant identity loss and "redemption" narrative in the addiction literature describing how individuals move from a "substance user" identity to a "recovery" identity. However, other identity related pathways influencing onset, treatment seeking and recovery may exist, and the process through which social identities unrelated to substance use change over time is not well understood. This study was designed to provide a richer understanding of such social identities processes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 adults residing in a drug and alcohol therapeutic community (TC) and thematic analysis revealed two distinct identity-related pathways leading into and out of addiction. Some individuals experienced a loss of valued identities during addiction onset that were later renewed during recovery (consistent with the existing redemption narrative). However, a distinct identity gain pathway emerged for socially isolated individuals, who described the onset of their addiction in terms of a new valued social identity. Almost all participants described their TC experience in terms of belonging to a recovery community. Participants on the identity loss pathway aimed to renew their pre-addiction identities after treatment while those on the identity gain pathway aimed to build aspirational new identities involving study, work, or family roles. These findings help to explain how social factors are implicated in the course of addiction, and may act as either motivations for or barriers to recovery. The qualitative analysis yielded a testable model for future research in other samples and settings.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus