‘I no longer know that person’: Experiences of families living with someone using crystal methamphetamine

Dara Sampson, Milena Heinsch, Jenny Geddes, Richard Velleman, Gill Velleman, Maree Teesson, Nicola Newton

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Crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) use is a large and growing worldwide problem, yet few research studies have explored the impact of crystal methamphetamine use on affected friends and family members. We explored the experiences and narratives of family members and friends of people who use methamphetamine to inform the development of a Family and Friend Support Program.

This paper reports on a subset of findings from a mixed method study, which sought to better understand the experiences of family members and friends of people who use methamphetamine. Participants were recruited via Facebook advertising and asked to complete a survey outlining their experiences. At the end of the survey, participants were invited to be interviewed by a clinical psychologist on the research team, to discuss their experiences in greater depth; seventeen people agreed to be interviewed. This paper is based on a qualitative thematic analysis of these interviews using Braun and Clarke’s 6-stage approach to identify key areas of concern for friends and family members of people who use methamphetamine.

Through thematic analysis, five key themes were developed, namely: (1) loss, (2) stigma, (3) support (or lack thereof), (4) ways of coping, and (5) the value in sharing personal experiences. The results of this study revealed the profound sadness, frustration and loss friends and family members experienced when caring for a loved one who uses methamphetamine. This loss was further complicated by societal stigma surrounding the use of methamphetamine, which often extended to friends and family members themselves. Since experiences of grief and loss were interwoven across the three themes, concepts of ambiguous loss, disenfranchised grief, and narrative constructivist approaches to understanding loss, were applied to the discussion of results.

This study provides a more complete picture of family and caregiver experiences when caring for a loved one using methamphetamine, which may further help inform the design of intervention programs. Implications for future research and practice with this population are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0284156
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Grant awarded to: FKL Grant number: G1801154 Funders: Department of Health, Australian Government URL Funder: https://www. health.gov.au/ The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Data Availability
Due to the qualitative nature of the data that contributed to this study, requests to access interview transcripts should be directed to the University of Newcastle‘s human research ethics committee. Approval Number: H-2017-0040 email: human-ethics@newcastle.edu.au


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