An exploration into the causes of addiction, from the perspective of the addict, with a focus on heroin addiction

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McCann, Linda
Issue Date
MA in Addiction Studies
Dublin Business School
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At the beginning of 1979 a growing trend in the use of opiates were brought to public attention in Ireland. This opiate epidemic involved large scale use of heroin in areas of socio-economic deprivation in Dublin. In the 1990's a second opiate epidemic developed with the identification of a new generation of young heroin users (O'Gorman & Aileen, 1998). There are two historical ways of looking at addiction, The Disease Model and The Free-Will Model. The Disease Model states that people are driven by an irresistible compulsion that is allegedly a medically recognised disease. The Free-Will model sees humans as being capable of deliberate actions in pursuit of chosen goals (Schaler, 2000). The aims of this study were to investigate the causes of addiction by interviewing ten active heroin users, and asking their perspectives on why they became addicted, and trying to find out if it was driven by choices or if it was a disease. Gossop (2001) states that initially people use drugs for many reasons but the decision to use or not use drugs represents a voluntary choice. The study used a qualitative design, with semi-structured interviews and implementing a thematic analysis of the results. The findings of the study confirm previous research in some areas and contradict research in others. The findings revealed that 70% of the participants came from homes with histories of family drink/drug problems. In addition to this it was revealed that all participants acknowledged making independent choices to initially take drugs, although there were several varied reasons behind those choices. The participants also acknowledged continuing to choose to use drugs, although after a point the use of drugs seems to develop a life of its own that even when the user wants to cut down or give up, they experienced great difficulty in giving up the habit. The study concludes and supports the Free-Will Model of addiction.