Different dimensions : women's perspectives on alcohol and drugs.
This thesis explores aspects of the experience of alcohol and drug problems which are
unique to women, and specifically factors relating to the problematising of such
experiences, and help-seeking. Drawing on feminist methodology, in-depth interviews
were conducted with 23 women, self-identified as problem alcohol and/or drug users,
seventeen of whom were in residential treatment at the time of the study. Ten senior
alcohol and drug agency staff were also interviewed.
The five main topic areas addressed in the thesis are as follows: chaos; control;
problem recognition; professional responses; and treatment - the benefits and costs for
women. The context in which each aspect of alcohol and drug use is explored is one in
which the dimension of gender takes centre stage. This thesis thus explores new
dimensions of what may be seen as old problems. It engages with debates which have
emerged from previous research on women, alcohol, and drugs, in part synthesising
previous debates (for example, on the concept of control). The thesis also extends
earlier analyses by exploring the dynamics of heterosexual relationships in which
alcohol and drug use plays a major role (problem recognition), and develops additional
depth in existing knowledge on previously under-researched areas (i.e. benefits and
costs of treatment).
The conclusion of the thesis explores differences which have emerged between women
in the five topic areas under scrutiny. It is suggested that a feminist analysis of alcohol
and drug use, which has tended in recent years to become marginalised in terms of
influence on social policy, is vital to an understanding of both the antecedents and
consequences of substance use for women.