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'The Drugs Did For Me What I Couldn't Do For Myself': A Qualitative Exploration of the Relationship Between Mental Health and Amphetamine-Type Stimulant (ATS) Use

Lookup NU author(s): Liam SpencerORCiD, Dr Michelle Addison, Dr Hayley AldersonORCiD, William Mcgovern, Dr Ruth McGovernORCiD, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD, Professor Amy O'DonnellORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Substance use and mental ill health constitute a major public health burden, and a key global policy priority is to reduce illicit and other harmful substance use. Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) are the second most used class of illicit drugs and a range of mental health issues have been documented amongst users. This paper explores the relationship between mental health and ATS use, through a thematic analysis of qualitative interviews with n=18 current and former ATS users in England. The findings are presented by trajectory point of; (1) Initiation of ATS use; (2) continued and increased ATS use and (3) decreased and remitted ATS use. This work helps to develop understanding around the complex and bi-directional relationship between ATS use and mental health. Many ATS users lead chaotic lives and engage in multi- ple risk behaviours, however there is a need to better understand and conceptualise the dynamic interaction between different individual, social, environment and cultural factors that determine individuals’ mental health and substance use. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to preven- tion and treatment, and these findings highlight the need for more joined-up, tailored and holistic approaches to intervention development.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Spencer L, Addison M, Alderson H, McGovern W, McGovern R, Kaner E, O'Donnell A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment

Year: 2021

Volume: 15

Pages: 1-8

Print publication date: 01/01/2021

Online publication date: 06/12/2021

Acceptance date: 27/10/2021

Date deposited: 08/12/2021

ISSN (electronic): 1178-2218

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/11782218211060852


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