Eating patterns amongst heroin users: a qualitative study with implications for nutritional interventions

Neale, J., Nettleton, S., Pickering, L. and Fischer, J. (2012) Eating patterns amongst heroin users: a qualitative study with implications for nutritional interventions. Addiction, 107(3), pp. 635-641. (doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03660.x)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03660.x

Abstract

Aim: To provide new insights into heroin users’ eating patterns in order to inform nutritional interventions.

Design: 77 audio-recorded in-depth interviews which elicited detailed data on eating patterns.

Setting: Community and residential drug services, pharmacies and peer support groups in Southern England, UK.

Participants: 40 current or ex-heroin users (21 men and 19 women), of whom 37 (20 men and 17 women) were re-interviewed after 3 months.

Measurements: Audio data transcribed verbatim, systematically coded and analysed inductively.

Findings: Heroin users’ eating patterns were influenced by individual, social, cultural, economic and environmental factors. During active heroin use, participants consumed quick, convenient, cheap and sweet foods, ate infrequently and had little interest in food. Eating patterns often improved during stays in residential services and after heroin cessation. Ex-heroin users began to take pleasure in food preparation and eating and identified therapeutic benefits to cooking. Initially, weight gain was experienced positively, but subsequently generated anxieties as participants, particularly women, struggled to control their appetite and worried about becoming overweight. Findings complement and add to previous research and sociological and anthropological literatures.

Conclusions: Heroin users have dysfunctional eating patterns that are amenable to change and community and residential services could enable them to experience the many health, psychological and social benefits of improved eating practices. Nutritional interventions need to be tailored to individual needs and circumstances, but also monitored and evaluated so that there is a future evidence base

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Heroin, eating patterns, nutritional interventions, qualitative, residential services
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pickering, Dr Lucy
Authors: Neale, J., Nettleton, S., Pickering, L., and Fischer, J.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Addiction
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
ISSN:0965-2140
ISSN (Online):1360-0443

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