Home > A grounded theory of detoxification-seeking among heroin users in south east Ireland.

McDonnell, Anne and Van Hout, Marie Claire (2010) A grounded theory of detoxification-seeking among heroin users in south east Ireland. Waterford: Waterford Institute of Technology.

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The need for widespread increase of both community and residential detoxification services in Ireland has been clearly articulated at national and local level (Mannix, 2006; Corrigan & O’Gorman, 2007; Dept. Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, 2007; Doyle & Ivanovic, 2010). This study explores a central phenomenon of detoxification-seeking among heroin users in the South East of Ireland, through a grounded theory approach. The study conceptualises detoxification-seeking as a help-seeking behaviour, experienced by heroin users, but not all, in response to and as a consequence of the complex experience of being heroin dependent, and wanting to become abstinent.

The core category, ‘forging a pathway towards abstinence from heroin’, provides an insight into challenges and tasks that research participants undertook when their aim was abstinence. Pathways towards abstinence involved collaboration with other heroin users, family and/or health and drug service professionals and were heavily influenced by internal factors such as perception of services and perception of need for help. The process of forging a pathway towards abstinence had three stages; recognising, help-seeking, and navigating. The three stages include actions related to information seeking, and treatment (including detoxification) seeking. Not all research participants experienced all of the stages. However, all of the research participants, at some point in their heroin-using careers experienced factors which blocked, or facilitated them, to seek detoxification. Such factors included the presence, or lack of; family support, a therapeutic alliance, personal knowledge (of heroin dependence and drug treatment) and access to treatment services. Such barriers and/or enabling factors, were found in the social and personal contexts of the individual, and were shown to inhibit or facilitate the individual to seek heroin detoxification.

The study offers a clear theoretical framework for understanding the contextual factors that can lead heroin users to seek detoxification. The study has implications for development of low threshold services, development of community-based detoxification and facilitation of service user involvement.

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