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Understanding how people with mental health difficulties experience substance use

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Substance Use and Misuse
Issue number3
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)318-329
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date19/02/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Quantitative studies dominate research exploring reasons for substance use and experiences of substance use by people with mental health difficulties. This limits the depth of understanding which can be gained about these experiences.
In the present article we synthesized current qualitative research in this area to provide enhanced theoretical knowledge of these experiences.
Following a systematic literature search, we identified 12 studies which explored how people with mental health difficulties experienced using substances, and which met additional inclusion criterion. We used Noblit and Hare’s metaethnographic approach to qualitatively synthesize these studies.
Synthesis led to the development of two themes; ‘substance use mediates acceptance and social inclusion’ and ‘substance use provides perceived opportunities for control and power’.
The findings suggest that in the studies reviewed people's motivation for substance use was embedded in social and psychological contexts. It indicated that substance use could provide perceived benefits such as mediating the impact of mental health stigma, enabling the development of alternative identities, increasing their sense of power and providing opportunities for social inclusion. Mental health and substance use workers should therefore aim to develop alternative opportunities for people with co-occurring disorders to gain such benefits, and seek to challenge mental health stigma.

Bibliographic note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Substance Use and Misuse on 19/02/2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10826084.2015.1108341