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No Thanks! A Mixed-Methods Exploration of the Social Processes Shaping Persistent Non-Initiation of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants

Lookup NU author(s): Liam SpencerORCiD, Professor Amy O'DonnellORCiD



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


Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS), such as amphetamines, MDMA, and methamphetamine are a commonly used class of illicit drugs in Europe. There is a large existing literature on motives for the use of illicit drugs, often focusing on initiation. However, few studies have explored the reasons why some people choose not to use drugs (non-use), and even fewer focus on the social processes influencing non-use of ATS specifically. We explored social processes related to normalization, and how persistent non-users negotiate their non-use in social contexts where ATS is used, using qualitative interview (n = 21) and survey questionnaire (n = 126) data from a mixed-method study conducted in the Netherlands and England. Our findings showed that in both countries, most participants were repeatedly exposed to ATS use, often in social or nightlife settings. Participants abstained from use for a number of reasons, including: lack of interest in illicit drug use in general; desire to maintain control over their own behavior and environment; and to avoid the associated health risks. Social processes also shaped persistent non-use of ATS, via conscious socialization with, and selection of, other non-using peers over time. Our findings contribute to the literature on the normalization thesis, showing that recreational ATS use is only partly socially accommodated and normalized among persistent non-users, suggesting differentiated normalization.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Liebregts N, McGovern W, Spencer L, O'Donnell A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Contemporary Drug Problems

Year: 2022

Volume: 49

Issue: 2

Pages: 228-247

Print publication date: 01/06/2022

Online publication date: 10/03/2022

Acceptance date: 14/02/2022

Date deposited: 10/03/2022

ISSN (print): 0091-4509

ISSN (electronic): 2163-1808

Publisher: Sage Publications, Inc.


DOI: 10.1177/00914509221084388


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Funder referenceFunder name
PR-ST-0416-10001National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)