Young women's recreational drug use in Aotearoa
Uncovering the nuances within twelve young women’s experiences with recreational drugs, this exploratory study focuses on drug use as a journey. Following Buchanan’s (2008) definition of recreational drug use, the participants had experience with drugs including cannabis, MDMA and LSD. Exploring how typical use presents itself, how this may have changed over time and the motivations behind using recreational drugs, this research was approached through the lens of feminist standpoint theory and used the qualitative method of semi-structured interviews. Using Braun and Clarke’s (2006, 2020) thematic analysis, key themes included social influence, setting specific influence and individual change over time. Led by varied motivations, different recreational drugs were favoured in different spaces, with the overarching construct of gender appearing inescapable for participants in this study. The most popular settings for recreational drug use appeared to be those within the night-time economy, with MDMA the key drug used in these settings. Cannabis was mainly used at home and at house parties, with and LSD being used in outside/tranquil spaces e.g. on weekends away. With applications to social bond theory (Hirschi, 1969), the normalisation thesis (Measham et al., 1994) and life course theory (Sampson & Laub, 1993), this study applied a modern lens to these traditional theories. Finding differentiated normalisation within young women’s friend groups, strong friendship bonds encouraged recreational drug use, moving away from more traditional social bonds such as employment as the most important influences in early adulthood. Life course theorising was also an important consideration in understanding age-specific bonds and the changes experienced over time by study participants. Overall findings indicated that young women who use recreational drugs do so with agency as well as considering harm reduction advice from peers as well as organisations like ‘KnowYourStuff’.