Beyond Pleasure: a study into the quality of life of drug users

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    Abstract

    Since the 1980’s quality of life (QOL) indicators have been used to assess health outcomes. Extensive bodies of work now exist on the QOL of particular groups with chronic conditions and in the general population. The case for using QOL is worth reiterating. In most instances medical treatments are justified on the basis that they reduce the symptom burden or the duration or severity of an underlying condition. An improvement in the QOL provides the justification for treatment. Arguably QOL improvements provide the main measure of the effects of medical care. The QOL of drug users, however, has been largely neglected. Those studies that do exist are limited to treatment populations, who do not represent the majority of people who use drugs. Drug using behaviours, including the consumption of alcohol, tobacco smoking, cannabis use, the non-medical use of medications and (to a lesser extent) injecting opioids by people who inject drugs (PWID), are common especially amongst adolescents and young adults. Assessing the QOL of drug users should be central to psycho-social approaches to understanding drug use patterns and to subsequently addressing patterns of harmful use.

    Current perspectives of drug use focus on either its harms or pleasurable aspects. The latter approach suggests that, despite the potential for adverse consequences, drug users negotiate the risks of use to maximise the benefits, whether this be for pleasure or for an improved state of subjective well-being. However whether drug users achieve these positive outcomes is uncertain. Assessing the QOL of drug users provides an overarching perspective of the consequences of drug use, that is, its potential for both harm and pleasure.

    To be able to address the potential harms and benefits associated with drug use, it is first necessary to describe the QOL of users and to determine whether drug use is associated with changes in the users’ QOL. There is a need to understand the potential temporal sequence between QOL and drug use, and whether drug type or drug taking frequency influences QOL assessments (and the reverse).
    Original languageEnglish
    TypePhD Thesis
    Media of outputPDF online
    PublisherUniversity of Queensland
    Number of pages197
    Place of PublicationBrisbane
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Keywords

    • quality of life
    • alcohol and other drugs
    • young adult
    • longitudinal studies

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