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Title: 'Facing the risk of overdose' : a grounded theory study exploring heroin users' experiences of overdose
Author: Smith, Rachel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2700 5354
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2008
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Overdose is a significant cause of death among heroin users and up to two-thirds of heroin users will experience at least one non-fatal overdose in their lifetime. Despite a recent increase in the literature on overdose psychological understandings of the processes involved are limited, particularly from the perspective of heroin users. This study explored heroin users' experiences of overdose particularly the two areas of intent and risk. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen individuals who had a history of heroin use and were attending a treatment service in south London. A social constructionist grounded theory approach was followed and the theory 'facing the risk of overdose' was developed. The findings suggested that risk of overdose was affected by complex inter-relationships between individual, social and substance related factors. Participants located overdose in a context with other risks some of which were linked to a drug-using lifestyle. Therefore, overdose was often not the only risk faced by participants and this had implications for how they considered and managed risks. Overall, 'facing the risk of overdose' was best characterised as a social process influenced by acquaintances, friends, family and professionals. Intent appeared complex and dynamic, and although many overdoses were described as accidents some were intentional or accompanied by ambivalence about survival; attributions were also made to luck or chance. The findings are discussed in relation to existing literature. Clinical implications for services include dissemination of context-specific harm reduction information and the importance of addressing mental health needs as well as substance misuse. Recommendations for clinical psychologists include an increase in psychologically informed interventions. In recognition that overdose was a social behaviour clinical implications are also discussed at the community level. Finally, recommendations for future research are highlighted.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available