The objective of this study was to explore the nature and extent of the relationship between substance use and sight loss from four sources, i) analysis of existing datasets, ii) existing research evidence, iii) people living with sight loss and substance use and iv) people working with and supporting individuals with sight loss and substance use. This paper will focus on service users’ views for which the aim was to explore the meaning and function of substance use in the lives of people with sight loss.
A mixed sampling strategy was adopted involving both purposive and snowball sampling through sight loss, substance use, health and social care organisations. All data were collected using semi-structured interviews in person or via telephone.
Seventeen individuals with sight loss and substance use participated, the majority through their contact with two UK-wide sight loss organisations.
Findings and conclusions
There were three relationships between sight loss and substance use reported by participants:
1) concurrent substance use exacerbating pre existing eye conditions
2) substance use as a response or coping mechanism for sight loss
3) substance use as a ‘causal’ factor for sight loss.
Participants also identified challenges relating to the planning of, and participation in, substance use as a result of their sight loss. There were mixed experiences of substance use services for those who had accessed them. Finally, participants identified the need for more information about sight loss and substance use and better communication of it for themselves and professionals alike.