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Title: Recreational drug use : a risky business : an ethnographic account of perceived and experienced risk
Author: O'Neill, Christina
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2013
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Much of the existing literature on drug related risk focuses on problem drug use, placing emphasis on the range of health, legal and social harms which are often associated with such behaviour. The present study investigates perceptions and experiences of risk among a sample of self-reported "recreational" drug users in Northern Ireland. The overall aim of the research was to gain insight into the lived experience of recreational drug users, paying particular attention to risk perception and risk behaviour, as well as the myriad of environmental forces which interact to reduce or reproduce drug related risk. At a theoretical level, the study examines Rhodes' Risk Environment approach (2002, 2009; Rhodes et al., 2003) in the context of recreational patterns of drug use. To date, Rhodes' framework has been limited to studies of risk associated with problem drug misuse, Le., injecting drug use. The research utilised an ethnographic approach and findings draw on data from more than 60 in-depth interviews and approximately 70 observation sessions recorded between 2007 and 2012. A total of 45 self-reported recreational drug users, aged 18 years or more, participated in at least one of four research phases. The final phase of the research included respondents from rural (n=20) and urban (n=15) areas in Northern Ireland. Key findings highlight the role of environmental forces at micro, meso and macro-levels, in shaping risk perception and risk behaviour. These forces interact to reduce or reproduce drug related harm. Three types of risk were identified in relation to recreational patterns of drug consumption: health risk, legal risk and social risk. The study discusses these risks and the strategies that respondents adopt t9 manage risk. Findings demonstrate the subjective nature of risk perception and highlight significant disparities between lay and expert discourses on drug related risk. The thesis concludes with a discussion of implications for drug research and policy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available