"I no longer know that person": Grief and loss in families living with someone using crystal methamphetamine

Journal reference


Sampson, D., Heinsch, M., Geddes, J., Velleman, R., Velleman, G., Teesson, M., Newton, N., & Kay-Lambkin, F. (2020). "I no longer know that person": Grief and loss in families living with someone using crystal methamphetamine. https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-84158/v1 


Background: Although crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) use is a large and growing worldwide problem, few research studies have explored the impact of crystal methamphetamine use on affected friends and family members. In order to inform the development of a Family and Friend Support Program for those affected by someone else’s use of ice, the experiences and narratives of family members and friends were explored.

Methods: This paper reports on a subset of findings from a mixed method study, which sought to better understand the experiences of affected friends and family members of people using ice. Participants were recruited via a Facebook ad and asked to complete a survey outlining their experiences. At the end of the survey, participants were invited to be interviewed by the clinical psychologist on the research team, to discuss their experiences in greater depth. Seventeen people (out of the 39 who completed the survey) agreed to be interviewed. This paper is based on a qualitative thematic analysis of those seventeen interviews conducted with family members and friends of people using ice.

Results: The thematic analysis highlighted common areas of concern and experience. Key themes emerged from the thematic analysis, namely loss, stigma, support (or lack thereof), ways of coping, and the value in sharing personal experiences. The pre-eminent theme was that of grief and loss. Concepts of ambiguous loss, disenfranchised grief, and narrative constructivist approaches to understanding loss were applied to the analysis of results. Loss was often compounded by social constructions and stigma attached to ice usage, which extended to the people caring for friends and family members as well.

Conclusion: The experiences of the people interviewed in relation to a person in their life who was using ice, were complicated by social constructions of the drug itself. It emerged that this resulted in grief processes which were made more complex because of the stigma attached to the use of ice. These results warrant further clinical consideration and research.


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