University of Western Ontario - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Supervisor

Dr. Sandra DeLuca

Abstract

In this thesis discourses of drug use are explored outside therapeutic and self-help settings to inform health professional education. A discursive narrative methodology identifies multiple discourses of drugs embedded in individual accounts. A critical analysis investigates how the concept of drugs is put into discourse and the influence of discursive practices on how people act and how they are acted upon.

The findings are presented in three sections: i) The term “hiding” conveys either “concealment” or “non-disclosure” of drug use. Being able to talk openly about drug use was desirable and has the potential to be beneficial; ii) Disclosing drug use is associated with undesired consequences, therefore the context and audience influence how drugs are talked about. The education of children is a topic that reveals contradictions between what people do and what people say. iii) Discursive practices are used to construct personal drug use as socially acceptable. For example, non-disclosure of drug use serves to minimise negative consequences, personal accounts respond to the diagnostic criteria of substance dependence and substance abuse, and flipping the script on drugs and pushing provides a strategy to problematise distinctions between illicit and pharmaceutical drugs.

Drug use is portrayed as individual choice; drugs and drug use are social constructs and the “effects” of doing drugs reach far beyond any possible physiological response of the body. The major contribution of this research is that it applies novel perspectives and approaches to an otherwise extensively researched and extensively theorised subject in health professional education.