Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Narratives of Starting, Using, and Stopping Methamphetamine Use

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posted on 2021-12-07, 07:21 authored by Dance, John

Methamphetamine use has come to be seen as a significant policy issue in New Zealand and elsewhere. Panic about methamphetamine’s effects, the increasing prevalence of its use and its alleged potential to cause more harm than other drugs has been fundamental in elevating public concern and initiating a raft of law and order responses. Using the familiar tropes of addiction and drug-induced criminality, authoritative discourses conveying the nature of the ‘meth problem’ have obfuscated the social, cultural and structural forces which intersect decisions about drug use. Instead, explanations of meth-use anchored to behavioural theories about risk have emphasised drug-use is as being the product of individualised cognitive decision making. In taking a narrative approach to analyse 17 drug-users’ stories about starting, using and stopping methamphetamine use, this thesis sets out to theoretically engage with the experiential and contextual nuances of drug-taking decisions which continue to be excluded from authoritative accounts of problematic use. In doing so this thesis reveals how decisions about starting and using methamphetamine had occurred within established trajectories of problematic poly-drug taking behaviour. Collectively, the experiences of starting, using and stopping methamphetamine use storied by this sample of drug users help challenge pejorative constructions of problematic users of drugs as being wilfully self-destructive by highlighting that “risk actions are rarely the product of any one individuals’ rational decisions”(Rhodes: 1997:216).


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Criminology

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Hutton, Fiona