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Resilience from the perspective of the illicit injection drug user : an exploratory descriptive study Shaw, Audrey Linda

Abstract

Illicit injection drug use is a daunting health and social problem that calls for a multifaceted response. Resilience based strategies have the potential to complement the current approach to this problem but there is a paucity of research that would enable scientifically based strategies to be developed. The purpose of this secondary study was to explore and describe resilience from the perspective of individuals who use illicit injection drugs. For the purposes of this research increased resilience was viewed as quitting, decreasing and safer drug use and support seeking whereas decreased resilience was viewed as initial, increased or unsafe drug use and relapse. This qualitative study used data obtained from a larger qualitative study, conducted in Victoria, British Columbia in 2000, whose purpose was to determine behaviours and contexts that place the IDU at risk. Using Rapid Assessment Response and Evaluation methodology, data were collected from three participant groups: IDU (20 female, 21 male) service providers (45) and community leaders/policy makers (12). This study is limited to the key informant interview and focus group data of the first two groups. Participants described two types of experiences that were associated with an increase in resilience and one type of experience that was associated with a decrease in resilience. One type of experience associated with increased resilience involved getting to the point of behavioural and attitudinal change either by recognizing drug use was not worth the negative consequences entailed, by getting scared of the effects of drug use, by recognizing an inner desire to quit or by reaching out for support. A second type of experience associated with increased resilience involved envisioning a better non-drug using future. Participants also described experiences, associated with a decrease in resilience, which involved using illicit drugs to dull emotional pain stemming from abuse, mental illness, alienation, marginalization and hopelessness. Future research using primary data is suggested to increase knowledge of resilience in the context of those who use illicit injection drugs and to evaluate intervention strategies that include the fostering of protective factors in order to strengthen resilience.

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