Changing Lives, Changing Drug Journeys: Drug Taking Decisions from Adolescence to Adulthood (Hardback) book cover

Changing Lives, Changing Drug Journeys

Drug Taking Decisions from Adolescence to Adulthood

By Lisa Williams

© 2013 – Routledge

198 pages

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Paperback: 9780415623513
pub: 2014-03-21
Hardback: 9781843928942
pub: 2012-08-14
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780203105801
pub: 2012-10-12
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This book describes how a group of young people make decisions about drug taking. It charts the decision making process of recreational drug takers and non-drug takers as they mature from adolescence into young adulthood. With a focus upon their perceptions of different drugs, it situates their decision making within the context of their everyday lives.

Changing lives, changing drug journeys presents qualitative longitudinal data collected from interviewees at age 17, 22 and 28 and tracks the onset of drug journeys, their persistence, change and desistance. The drug journeys and the decision making process which underpins them are analysed by drawing upon contemporary discourses of risk and life course criminology. In doing so, a new theoretical framework is developed to help us understand drug taking decision making in contemporary society. This framework highlights the pleasures and risks that interviewees perceive when making decisions whether or not to take drugs. The ways in which their drug journeys and life journeys intersect and how social relationships and transitions to adulthood facilitate or constrain the decision making process are also explored.

Qualitative longitudinal research of this kind is uncommon yet it provides an invaluable insight into the decision making process of individuals during the life course. The book will, therefore, be of interest to researchers and students from a variety of disciplines including qualitative research methods as well as sociology, criminology, cultural and health studies. It will also be an important resource for professionals working in health promotion, drugs education, harm reduction and treatment.


"The book's strength is that it gives a voice to the most common but often most forgotten type of user: the recreational user whose use is pleasurable, social and largely a product of a complex mix of agency, structure and culture. It is regrettable that those voices are not more often heard in the cacophony of noise currently surrounding public debates on drug use in the twenty first century."Dr. Adrian Barton, Plymouth University, UK

"The book's strength is that it gives a voice to the most common but often most forgotten type of user: the recreational user whose use is pleasurable, social and largely a product of a complex mix of agency, structure and culture." – Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

"In addressing a group of drug users who haven’t been the traditional focus of drug policy (as well as those who abstain) but who make up the majority of users in the country, Williams has produced a narrative that helpfully reminds us of the complex interplay of experience, relationships and place that help shape their decisions."— Andrew Brown, Druglink

Table of Contents

1. Understanding and researching drug taking: lessons from the past 2. Theorizing decisions about drug taking 3. A balancing act? Weighing up the costs and benefits to health and well-being 4. The meaning of pleasure and risk in a cultural context 5. The journey to adulthood 6. At the crossroads: life journeys and drug journeys 7. Drug taking and risk assessment reconsidered

About the Author

Lisa Williams is Lecturer in Criminology at the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, in the School of Law, University of Manchester. For over a decade, she has undertaken research of both recreational and dependent forms of drug taking. Her research has focused upon recreational drug journeys during the life course exploring onset, stability, change and desistance.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Ethnography

Ethnography is a celebrated, if contested, research methodology that offers unprecedented access to people's intimate lives, their often hidden social worlds and the meanings they attach to these.  The intensity of ethnographic fieldwork often makes considerable personal and emotional demands on the researcher, while the final product is a vivid human document with personal resonance impossible to recreate by the application of any other social science methodology.  This series aims to highlight the best, most innovative ethnographic work available from both new and established scholars.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General