Alcohol and other drug addiction is often seen to involve a persistent pattern of heavy, regular drug use. Current models for understanding addiction tend to see this pattern of consumption as originating in the body or brain of the person, downplaying the role of contextual factors in how patterns develop. Previous research has found that space and place are key factors that contribute to alcohol and other drug use, but research has rarely explored how environmental influences change over time. In our research we interviewed 60 people who self-identified as experiencing an alcohol or other drug addiction, dependence or habit, and explored in our analysis what effect moving to a new residential location had on their use practices.

We found that when people moved to a new residential location they often experienced significant changes in their alcohol and other drug use. This showed that people’s use practices were strongly influenced by the context in which they were living, including their social circles, family connections, cultures, and access to alcohol and other drugs or treatment and support services. Through this research we demonstrated the need to consider how people’s relationships with place change over time, and the significant impact places can have on development and change of drug use patterns. Our findings have relevance for rethinking how we understand addiction and relapse, and how places might be used to help people bring about and sustain change in their patterns of alcohol and other drug use.

Dilkes-Frayne, E., Fraser, S., Pienaar, K., & Kokanovic, R. (2017). Iterating 'addiction': Residential relocation and the spatio-temporal production of alcohol and other drug consumption patterns. The International Journal of Drug Policy, 44, 164-173.

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