Post-graduate student Forum

Angelina Brotherhood (University of Vienna, AT) – Spaces of substance use – a typology

Space is relevant to many aspects of drug use, be it as a space of consumption or as a means of preventive or other intervention (such as smoking bans). Yet most research on the role of space in drug use appears to have focussed on alcohol and illegal drug use in the night time environment. Far fewer studies have explicitly examined the role of space from the perspective of individual substance use practices (not limited to a particular setting), and these studies have tended to examine one substance only.

Using repertory grids, the planned PhD project seeks to explore how young adults make sense of the spaces in which they consume (or do not consume) a variety of legal or illegal substances. It is assumed that different substances ‘create’ different spaces of consumption within the context of social space, depending on for example the legal status of substances, societal norms surrounding use, and the function of substance use for the person. The aim of the project is consequently to develop a typology of spaces of substance use. Of interest to prevention research, this study will contribute to an understanding of how drug-related needs (and consequently experiences of intervention) may vary across different types of spaces.

This research has recently started and therefore the presentation will focus on the rationale for the study (in the form of a conceptual framework on space and drugs) as well as the proposed methodology.

Anna-Theresa Renner (Gesundheit Österreich GmbH, AT) – Socioeconomic Status and Risky Health Behaviours – Explaining the Health Gradient

The main research objective of my work (master thesis for the master program “Health Economics, Policy and law” at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2011) was to identify possible channels through which socioeconomic status proxied by education influences the risky health behaviours: smoking tobacco, alcohol abuse and consumption and overeating. Econometric estimations on each of these bad habits shows that measures of cognitive ability, attitude towards life, social integration, description of the main job and the monthly household income together explain over 67% of the negative smoking gradient by education, 77.5% of the differences in at least occasional alcohol consumption but only around 6% of the negative gradient on being obese. The relationship between heavy alcohol abuse and education is against all expectations a positive one and only some measures

of attitude towards life and social integration reduce the probability of alcohol abuse. Furthermore, the additive theory, introduced by the author, which states that an individual accumulates risky health behaviours reflecting, and hence explained by, personal characteristics is tested. The results of the econometric analysis confirm that schooling has a negative effect on cumulating bad habits. It is shown that the level of education has little impact on picking up one unhealthy habit, whereas the chance of adding another one or two to this vice on average decreases by about 8% with each level of education.

Kimberley Hill (Oxford Brookes University, UK) – Understanding Alcohol Subjectivities: A Q–Methodology Approach

Behaviour change theories aimed at preventing alcohol misuse view intentions as the best predictor of behaviour, based upon the view that cognition guides behaviour. However, intentions are a fairly poor predictor of behaviour. Instead of explaining behaviour in terms of brain functioning and putting the brain before behaviour, an ecological approach places the level of explanation at the interplay of brain, body and world. Meaning exists at the relation of an organism to its environment, as suggested by Gibson’s affordance construct. Affordances represent possibilities for action which humans are able to utilise, for instance, certain objects are graspable and individuals can be spoken-to. During stage 1 of this research programme, a non-participant observational study illustrated potential affordances for promoting or inhibiting alcohol consumption within UK licensed premises, from an independent observer’s perspective. During stage 2, a photo-elicitation interview approach uncovered the individual subjectivity that exists between young adults and their drinking environments. A combination of these findings provided a varied concourse of alcohol-related affordances for a q-methodology study. 40 participants ranked 60 statements along a symmetrical grid with ‘strongly disagree’ at one end and ‘strongly agree’ at the other, based on their perceptions of their drinking behaviours and drinking environments. A preliminary factor analysis of these rankings and post-sort interviews uncovered factors which highlighted patterns of subjectivity from individual perceptions of drinking environments and drinking behavior. A focus will be on the conceptual and methodological challenges for this research, including the implications this has for theory, policy and future research

Nathan Keane Gardner (LJMU, UK) – Implicit cognitions tests: a tool for prevention research?
Cannabis is the most widely produced, used, and trafficked illicit drug in the world (UNODCCP, 2011). One of the main challenges in drugs research is understanding why people engage in behaviours despite possessing knowledge that it is detrimental to their health. Explicit measures, like attitudes, knowledge, and use expectancies, have been primarily used to predict behavioural outcomes of drug use (von Sydow et al., 2002). Despite their extensive use, explicit measures have considerable limitations, including participants’ self-presentation efforts for answers to be aligned with social convention, and lack of introspection and knowledge regarding the underlying mechanisms that contribute to behaviour (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977; Schwarz, 1999; Schwarz & Oyserman, 2001). Theories regarding behaviour suggest that a dual-process model of “rational” and “impulsive” processes jointly predict behaviour (Strack and Deutsch, 2004), an indication that the sole use of explicit measures (rational processes) to predict behavioural outcomes may be insufficient.

Prevention efforts often use screening tools to deliver tailored-interventi
ons to individuals (Conrod et al., 2010). Results of this study (N = 40) explore explicit measures of impulsivity and cannabis effect expectancies and how predictive they are of cannabis use outcomes in comparison to implicit measures of impulsivity (Affect Misattribution Procedure; Payne et al., 2005) and cannabis expectancies (Single-item IAT; (Greenwald et al., 1998, Dekker et al., 2009) in a sample of young people (18-35 years-old) who use cannabis weekly. Furthermore, the implications for prevention research and the feasibility of using implicit cognitions tests as a prevention screening tool will be discussed.