“Hooked on the needle”: Exploring the paradoxical attractions towards injecting drug use
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionDrugs: education prevention and policy. 2021, . 10.1080/09687637.2021.1955829
Injecting drug use is one of the leading risk factors for infections and drug-related deaths. Despite these risks, many people who inject drugs (PWID) continue to inject despite access to alternative intake methods. In this study, we explore this seemingly paradoxical attraction. We conducted 80 qualitative interviews with PWID, recruited from low threshold settings in five Norwegian cities, where we focuson the process of injection initiation and why PWID maintain such behaviour over time, despite associated negative consequences. The analysis shows how participants’ experiences evolved from a fear of the needle, to embracing it as a meaningful practice. First, this involved social interaction and learning from other PWID, second, appreciating the intensity and speed of the intoxication, third, the positive ritual aspect of injecting, and finally, a devaluation of other modes of use. The study thereby helps expand upon and provide new understandings of the interactional process and cultural context of drug use, in which the interplay of social factors influences individual actions and promotes injecting over other modes of use. Future interventions for reducing the number of PWID thus need to consider how various social contexts impinge on, or even encourage, injecting drug use.