Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Health Promotion


Kirkwood, Ken


This autoethnography adds my story to the scholarly literature on adolescent drug use. I examine how and why I used cocaine as an adolescent. However, to understand drug use, one must carefully unpack the psychosocial, cultural, environmental, and historical factors that influence this behaviour. Therefore, I explore each of these factors and their influence on my experiences with cocaine. Also, with any personal story about drugs, it is crucial to provide honest and thoughtful narratives about how drug use can affect someone’s life. This approach can help address the misconceptions and stigmas associated with this behaviour. As such, I genuinely and painstakingly share how cocaine affected my life and how I perceived it to affect the lives of my peers. I consumed cocaine for a variety of reasons: I was curious about the drug, it helped me temporarily escape my life problems and find short-term relief from my distress and emotional pain, I had a desire to experience euphoria, drug use was a means of socializing and cocaine became the most coveted substance among my peers, using cocaine helped me gain and maintain status within my peer groups, and I used and continued to use cocaine because I likely developed a substance use disorder. My experiences with cocaine were truly a collective experience, as I never consumed this drug alone. Cocaine significantly shifted our peer group dynamics and strongly influenced our interactions with each other unlike any other drug at that point. In terms of impact, cocaine had a negative overall effect on my physical, psychological, and social development. Most notably, this drug interfered with my ability to create and sustain healthy relationships, and I believe that cocaine contributed to the development of my mental illness. This study has the potential to help young people, parents, educators, policymakers, health care providers, those in recovery, and others better understand the intricacies and more contextual factors that influence and are involved in adolescent drug use. This paper offers an olive branch to those willing to see things from a different perspective and possibly change their existing beliefs about adolescent drug use.

Summary for Lay Audience

In this paper, I share my personal experiences of drug use as a teenager. I discuss how and why I used drugs during this time. However, to understand drug use, it is important to consider the many different factors that push people towards this behaviour. I review each of these factors and explain how they pushed me towards using cocaine. It is important for stories about drug use to be honest and meaningful, so people who are unfamiliar with this behaviour get a better understanding about the personal lives, developmental experiences, and living conditions of those who use drugs. Hopefully, these stories prevent others from being judgmental towards those who use drugs, especially those who are addicted and homeless. In this paper, I describe how cocaine affected my life and how I felt it affected my friends. I used cocaine for many different reasons: I wanted to know how the drug would make me feel, I was embarrassed, unhappy, and sad throughout much of my teenage years, and using drugs helped me forget about my problems for a while, I wanted to feel as happy as possible, all my friends used drugs and cocaine became our favourite drug, using cocaine helped me earn and keep the respect of my friends, and I used and continued to use cocaine because I likely developed an addiction to drugs. I never used cocaine by myself, as I was always with my friends. Using this drug together on a regular basis really changed our attitudes, behaviours, and feelings towards each other. Drug use hurt my growth as a teenager. Using cocaine damaged my relationships with friends and family, and I believe using this drug is one of the reasons why I began to have mental health issues. This paper may help a lot of people better understand the fine details and realities of drug use and help them realize that there are many different factors that push people towards drugs. This paper is a gift to those willing to learn more about drug use and possibly change their views about teenagers that use drugs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.