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Open AccessArticle

Perceptions of the Use of Alcohol and Drugs after Sudden Bereavement by Unnatural Causes: Analysis of Online Qualitative Data

1
UCL Centre for Behaviour Change, Research Department of Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB, UK
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UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP, UK
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UCL Research Department of Primary Care & Population Health, Rowland Hill St, London NW3 2PF, UK
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UCL Division of Psychiatry, Maple House, 149 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7NF, UK
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Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, St Pancras Hospital, London NW1 0PE, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 677; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030677
Received: 12 December 2019 / Revised: 17 January 2020 / Accepted: 19 January 2020 / Published: 21 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Alcohol Use Among Adolescents and Young People)
Bereavement is associated with an increased risk of psychiatric morbidity and all-cause mortality, particularly in younger people and after unnatural deaths. Substance misuse is implicated but little research has investigated patterns of drug or alcohol use after bereavement. We used a national online survey to collect qualitative data describing whether and how substance use changes after sudden bereavement. We conducted thematic analysis of free-text responses to a question probing use of alcohol and drugs after the sudden unnatural (non-suicide) death of a family member or a close friend. We analysed data from 243 adults in British Higher Education Institutions aged 18–40, identifying two main themes describing post-bereavement alcohol or drug use: (1) sense of control over use of drugs or alcohol (loss of control versus self-discipline), (2) harnessing the specific effects of drugs or alcohol. Across themes we identified age patterning in relation to substance misuse as a form of rebellion among those bereaved in childhood, and gender patterning in relation to men using alcohol to help express their emotions. The limitations of our sampling mean that these findings may not be generalizable from highly-educated settings to young people in the general population. Our findings describe how some young bereaved adults use drugs and alcohol to help them cope with traumatic loss, and suggest how clinicians might respond to any difficulties controlling substance use. View Full-Text
Keywords: bereavement; grief; accidental death; alcohol; drugs; qualitative research; thematic analysis bereavement; grief; accidental death; alcohol; drugs; qualitative research; thematic analysis
MDPI and ACS Style

Drabwell, L.; Eng, J.; Stevenson, F.; King, M.; Osborn, D.; Pitman, A. Perceptions of the Use of Alcohol and Drugs after Sudden Bereavement by Unnatural Causes: Analysis of Online Qualitative Data. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 677.

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