The SSA PhD symposium is now in its twelfth year and brings together PhD students studying a wide range of addictions-related topics. This year’s event ran online on the 4th November 2020. Over the coming weeks we will publish slides, summaries and blogs from the symposium that capture the experiences of presenters and attendees. In doing so we will showcase some of the latest and most exciting research that’s going on right now.


Session 1.0: Lived experiences

Summary by Merve Mollaahmetoglu (University of Exeter, UK)

The first session focused on the lived experiences of individuals who use drugs using qualitative research methods. Firstly, Ida Halvorsen Brenna presented on opioid users’ experiences of extended release naltrexone treatment and reasons for dropping out of treatment, particularly a sense of shifting identity. As some participants had no previous experience of life without substance use, they reported feeling unsure what to fill their time with. Additionally, without opioids, they recounted resurfacing of old traumatic experiences which they found overwhelming. 

Next Olivia Sexton presented an ethnography of alcohol discussion forums including Mumsnet Alcohol Support and Reddit Stop Drinking to identify contextual factors characterising heavy drinking occasions. Most salient factors for heavy drinking included drinking in the evening, weekends or on special occasions with friends and partner. An audience member asked about ethical concerns regarding the use of such online discussion forums considering that users may post whilst being intoxicated. Olivia raised that most forums remove participants if they post whilst drunk, and advised any researchers interested in using such forums to contact the moderators and ask for protocols that are in place already for the safety of forum participants.

Finally, Diane Zero presented her research which aimed to explore community perceptions on substance use disorders and syringe service programme (SSP) in Kentucky. Community members believed that individuals could stop using drugs if they tried harder, they were not in favour of syringe service programmes, and lacked awareness of syringe service programmes. Those with substance use disorders expressed feeling stigmatised using SSP and reported negative experiences with law enforcement, health care staff and community members. These findings suggested a need for a campaign to build empathy and understanding of substance use disorders and SSP in the community. 



The opinions expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the SSA.

The SSA does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of the information in external sources or links and accepts no responsibility or liability for any consequences arising from the use of such information.

Share this story