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Functional fun: Legitimising adult recreational drug use

Askew, R (2016) Functional fun: Legitimising adult recreational drug use. International Journal of Drug Policy. ISSN 0955-3959


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Background Recent statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales report a slight increase in past year drug use for the over thirty-age range ( Home Office, 2014 ). This paper explores how adult ‘recreational’ drug takers account for their illicit consumption alongside otherwise conforming lives. Methods Twenty-six in-depth interviews were conducted with individuals between the ages of 30 and 59. Each participant had taken drugs in the past year, their main source of income was not a result of criminal activity and they were not currently receiving drug treatment. Discursive Psychology was used to analyse how the participants describe, reason and justify their use. Results The analysis resulted in the development of three discursive frameworks that demonstrate the different ways in which illicit drug use can be legitimised. The ‘drug cultures’ framework achieves this through highlighting the accommodation of drugs within social networks. The ‘planned celebration’ framework outlines the occasional frequency of drug use to legitimise consumption. The ‘situational opportunity’ framework positions the wide access and availability of drugs as the influence of their behaviour. Conclusion If drug takers can articulate their ability to control their use and maintain functionality within their lives, then both drug taker and drug use may be legitimated. In order to better understand the conceptualisation of drug use and the acceptable boundaries of behaviour, this research has demonstrated that it is more appropriate to conceptualise drug use on a spectrum that runs from control through to dysfunction, rather than either recreational or problematic.

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