Experiences of alcohol and other drugs in individuals with severe mental illness and concomitant substance use disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: It is well known that severe mental illness (SMI) with concurrent substance use disorders (SUD) commonly occurs. This comorbidity has distressing social, psychological, psychiatric and somatic consequences.
Aim: To gain greater understanding of how individuals with SMI and SUD experience the roles of alcohol and other drugs for their health and in their life situation.
Method: Eight individuals were interviewed on two occasions. The semi-structured interviews, which were based on an interview guide, were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Results: Alcohol and drug use influenced the individuals’ own experiences of their health and life situation both in a positive and negative way. Substance use had meaning for their
1) experience of themselves – well-being and discomfort, energy and lack of energy, meaningfulness and disorientation, identity and personality change; 2) experiences of relationships – affiliation and alienation; 3) experiences of mental health – decreased and increased symptom levels.
Conclusions: When providing treatment and support it seems important to be aware of a person’s own motives for using alcohol and drugs. From the individuals’ point of view their misuse appeared as a reasonable, but misguided effort to obtain control over his/her health and life situation.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychiatry
  • Nursing


  • substance use disorders, client experiences, dual diagnosis, in-depth interviews, severe mental illness, qualitative research
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-241
JournalMental Health and Substance Use
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: The Vårdal Institute (016540000), Psychiatry (Lund) (013303000)