Substance abuse and rehabilitation: Understanding the issue from first-hand accounts

Mauricio E Austin, University of Texas at El Paso


This study clarifies understanding of factors influencing substance abuse and rehabilitation from the perspective of the substance abuser. The data collection and analysis methods employed include single and cross-case analyses, based on data gathered through semi-structured, face-to-face life history interviews with thirteen individuals who had substance abuse histories. In some respects, study results coincide with the extant literature on the subject. For example, most study participants first used drugs and/or alcohol while they were children or adolescents; experienced family and/or peer influence to start using; suffered from illnesses and/or loss of employment in association with their substance abuse; experienced a low point in their social lives due to their substance abuse that influenced their transition toward and commitment to the rehabilitation process; and have drawn upon multiple forms of social support in recovery. Study results also support novel insights, owing to the qualitative life history interview approach employed. Most behavioral literature on the topic is quantitative, which limits understanding of the complex and dynamic role that social contextual factors play in shaping trajectories of substance abuse and rehabilitation throughout people's life courses. For example, the approach employed here supports the inference that the social relations originally placing participants at risk of substance abuse emerged later on in life as the key protective factors influencing their successful efforts toward recovery. Quantitative studies cannot yield such findings, since they do not focus on people's life histories in a nuanced enough manner to elucidate how social relational dynamics shape experiences of substance abuse and rehabilitation through time. Thus, more systematic qualitative research on the topic of substance abuse and rehabilitation, focused on social contextual dynamics in people's life courses, is needed to improve understanding.

Subject Area

Social research|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Austin, Mauricio E, "Substance abuse and rehabilitation: Understanding the issue from first-hand accounts" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1539914.