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Perceptions of the Use of Alcohol and Drugs after Sudden Bereavement by Unnatural Causes: Analysis of Online Qualitative Data

Drabwell, L; Eng, J; Stevenson, F; King, M; Osborn, D; Pitman, A; (2020) Perceptions of the Use of Alcohol and Drugs after Sudden Bereavement by Unnatural Causes: Analysis of Online Qualitative Data. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 17 (3) , Article 677. 10.3390/ijerph17030677. Green open access

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Abstract

Bereavement is associated with an increased risk of psychiatric morbidity and all-cause mortality, particularly in younger people and after unnatural deaths. Substance misuse is implicated but little research has investigated patterns of drug or alcohol use after bereavement. We used a national online survey to collect qualitative data describing whether and how substance use changes after sudden bereavement. We conducted thematic analysis of free-text responses to a question probing use of alcohol and drugs after the sudden unnatural (non-suicide) death of a family member or a close friend. We analysed data from 243 adults in British Higher Education Institutions aged 18-40, identifying two main themes describing post-bereavement alcohol or drug use: (1) sense of control over use of drugs or alcohol (loss of control versus self-discipline), (2) harnessing the specific effects of drugs or alcohol. Across themes we identified age patterning in relation to substance misuse as a form of rebellion among those bereaved in childhood, and gender patterning in relation to men using alcohol to help express their emotions. The limitations of our sampling mean that these findings may not be generalizable from highly-educated settings to young people in the general population. Our findings describe how some young bereaved adults use drugs and alcohol to help them cope with traumatic loss, and suggest how clinicians might respond to any difficulties controlling substance use.

Type: Article
Title: Perceptions of the Use of Alcohol and Drugs after Sudden Bereavement by Unnatural Causes: Analysis of Online Qualitative Data
Location: Switzerland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17030677
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030677
Language: English
Additional information: © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: accidental death, alcohol, bereavement, drugs, grief, qualitative research, thematic analysis
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Primary Care and Population Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10090604
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