Heroin Addiction and Longing to Belong

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Paine, J.
  • Subject: BF

This study explores the lived experience of being parented in childhood and adolescence in individuals with a long history of heroin/crack cocaine dependence. This investigation uses attachment theory (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991; Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980) as a central pillar of the explanatory framework, while also drawing upon psychodynamic concepts to illuminate and interpret participants' narratives. The avowed aim of this research is to contribute towards a psychodynamic phenomenology of parental relationships in childhood, and in particular that of the mother-child dyad. The study also endeavours to begin to make up for the paucity of studies about the relationship between attachment and heroin addiction, while using a constructivist-interpretative epistemological position to examine how individuals' early life experiences may shape and influence them through later life. In this study, a clinical sample of six individuals stabilised on a low-dose methadone maintenance programme underwent three separate interviews, and analysis was conducted using interpretative phenomenological analysis. This focused on emergent themes, retaining a strong epistemological commitment to interpretations firmly embedded in the data. Three major themes emerged: 'I was always the outsider', and perceptions of not fitting in socially or with family; 'I wanted an ordinary mum and got Supermum', and the notion of a mother who was not mentally attuned with the growing child; and 'my search for a new, improved sense of self, where the child attempts to extinguish their negative self-image. These findings are then discussed, using theoretical literature as explanatory support, in an attempt to improve our understanding of the experience of being parented in a child who went on to\ud become a heroin addict.
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