Drug problems and social exclusion : the development of heroin careers in risk environments
The location-specificd rug scenesi dentified in Ireland and the UK in the 1980s indicated that problem drug use had a particular social and spatial focus in urban working-class communities, particularly those affected by unemployment and deprivation. This thesis explores localised drug problems in a number of disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Dublin by locating the perspective and experience of heroin users within the context of the social and economic contexts in which they live and operate. Taking a critical interpretivist methodological approach, the concepts of social exclusion and risk environments are used as heuristic devices for understanding the context in which problematic drug careers develop in marginalised areas. Using a multi-method research design, the study draws on secondary demographic, socioeconomic and policy data to provide a contextual framework of risk environments. The study then explores the development of heroin careers and the lived experience of social exclusion through in-depth qualitative interviews with sixty-one heroin users and an ethnographic study of the five socially excluded Dublin neighbourhoods in which they lived. An inductive analysis of the themes arising from the data describes the interactive dynamics at play in which social and structural processes are seen to both facilitate, and be facilitated by, local drug problems. The multiple and interconnected risks that drug users are seen to encounter at both a micro and macro environmental level contributes to our knowledge of localised drug problems and their relationship with social exclusion, and leads to the development of the concept of a risk environment for drug problems with consequent potential for informing grounded policy interventions.