Because addiction is stigmatised in Australia, and people associated with it face discrimination, the website’s interview material has been altered to protect the identities of participants. Written and audio clips have been edited to remove potentially identifying information, and the video clips have been produced using actors who have re-enacted the original interview material. The video and audio clips, and written extracts were selected on the basis that they illustrate one of the key themes identified, for example how people look after their health, or how alcohol and other drug use fits into their lives. These clips present a diverse range of experiences but because they have been extracted from lengthy interviews, they are not intended to offer a full picture of each person’s life.
Also presented are life stories reconstructed by the researchers from the accounts people give of their lives in the context of their drug use. These personal stories provide important context, often making clear that, contrary to popular perception, people affected by addiction share the same joys, fears and experiences as everyone else. That said, the stories are not intended to be historical documents offering the ‘facts’ of a life. Instead they offer a perspective on a whole life put together from the details of a lengthy interview. Notably, the personal stories have been checked and approved by participants who chose to review them. The participants were also asked to look at the written transcripts of their interviews to ensure they were accurate, and were invited to add extra comments or mark parts they no longer wanted included in the research.
The website content is drawn from interviews conducted with 60 people living in cities and regional areas of Victoria and New South Wales, Australia. The participants range in age from 18 to 59, and come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. They also vary across occupation, education level and sexual orientation. Some describe consuming only one drug, while others talk about two or more. Alcohol, much more widely consumed in Australia than any other substance and associated with more health and other issues, is included, but because the aim of this website is to explore diversity, it doesn’t feature as heavily as might be expected given its widespread presence in society. Detailed information about the people interviewed can be found here.
What can you expect to find on Lives of Substance? By browsing our list of topics, you will find stories of how alcohol or other drug use fits into daily life, how people manage regular use, how they look after their health and well-being, how they have cut down or stopped altogether, and many other issues. Some talk about experiences of treatment and give suggestions for improving health and other services. Many offer advice and messages for other consumers, for family and friends, or for policymakers and healthcare professionals. Importantly, while the project on which this website is based aimed to gather a very diverse set of experiences, the content does not include all experiences. If you have had experiences not reflected here, please feel free to communicate them via our moderated comment section.
We hope you find Lives of Substance helpful and informative.