Rebuilding social capital in substance use recovery – what are the priorities


Introduction: Recovering from substance use is a lifelong journey. The current model of care in Ireland identified in the National Drug Rehabilitation Implementation Committee (NDRIC) framework places opportunities for rebuilding social capital at the core of its recovery and rehabilitation programme.

Aim: To identify the current experiences of rebuilding social capital in the recovery journey in a region of Ireland.

Method: Six focus groups were conducted with service providers, users of the services their families and friends in the South East Region of Ireland. Interviews were unstructured and audio recorded and analysed using Nvivo qualitative software. Key themes and sub themes were identified through analysis of interview data, field notes and through lengthy discussion with the key members of the research team.

Results: Four major themes emerged from the data and included, opportunities for employment, homelessness, societal values on substance use and building self-esteem. The main discussion items were focused on previous involvement in crime, convictions for drug possession and limitations in gaining employment or accessing educational opportunities as a result of police vetting. Lack of suitable accommodation was a significant barrier to rebuilding social capital within their chosen communities. Shame and stigma associated with drug use was also a major barrier in rebuilding their lives and the perceived inability of society to accept a former drug user in recovery.

Conclusion: There is a requirement to examine the current system of police vetting in Ireland to identify barriers to gaining employment and educational opportunities for those in recovery. Opportunities to educate communities, employers and educators and dispel some of the myths associated with former drug use could positively influence recovery and benefit wider society.



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