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Perceptions of the applicability of the Self-Medication Hypothesis: An interpretivist study

Howie, Frederick Richard (2019) Perceptions of the applicability of the Self-Medication Hypothesis: An interpretivist study. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis describes a study of individuals' perceptions of the applicability of the Self-Medication Hypothesis as proposed by Edward Khantzian (SMH). In simple terms, the SMH proposes that individuals use alcohol and other drugs in order to alleviate extreme emotional distress, and that they use the substance which is most effective in providing relief.

This research assumed an interpretivist position when eliciting and then interpreting views articulated by individuals accessing counselling and street outreach services directed at providing help to those adversely affected by alcohol and/or other drug use (Clients), and those providing such services (Service Workers). Informants conveyed their perceptions during interactive, unstructured interview conversations.

Clients and Service Workers perceived substance use in terms of complex, intertwined motivations. Clients and Service Workers alike perceived self-medication to be one important motivation for substance use. However, both groups indicated they saw the SMH to be limited in its ambit, as it does not consider relief from physical pain and does not address less extreme emotional distress. Views of the nature of relief sought and obtained varied. Service Workers generally perceived relief as "feeling numb", whereas Clients generally sought to "feel better" in a holistic sense.

Clients and Service Workers identified "having fun" and social and cultural influences as important motivations for substance use, and did not emphasise one as more important than the other. In doing so, Informants identified feeling "numb", "better" and "good" as a continuum. These perceptions are in contrast to Khantzian's view that self-medication is the primary motivation for alcohol and other drug use.

Clients and Service Workers addressed self-medication as an alternative to medically prescribed drugs in ways that reaffirmed the importance of substance use for self-medication. Both groups identified shortcomings in the areas of acquisition and effects of prescribed drugs as key reasons for self-medication.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Arts, Business, Law and Social Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Supervisor(s): Northcote, Jeremy and Palmer, David
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