Three Realities. Women in different phases of drug abuse - a social psychological investigation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The purpose of this study was to systematically examine the social, cultural and psychological situation of a group of women with drug addiction, and to gain an understanding of it. Different theoretical perspectives were utilized in efforts to understand and explain why some young women start using drugs. The attempt was made to integrate a social psychological perspective with a perspective based on women`s research and on personality psychology. The study concerns an empirical investigation of a group of 34 women treated at the Drug Dependence Unit of St. Lars Hospital in Lund, Sweden. The women were interviewed regarding their social circumstances, their interpersonal relations and their intrapsychic state. In addition, 19 of them were investigated by means of DMTm (Defence Mechanism Technique, modified). The women had abused morphine and/or heroin for many years. Most of them had been prostitutes. The majority had been involved in criminal activities. On the basis of the theoretical framework, it appeared fruitful to analyze the construction of gender and identity within this context in the following three terms: (1) the current social and culturally related context in which the women lived, including aspects of power, gender and of time, (2) internalised versus rival norms and values the women regarded as relevant to them and (3) personality strategies serving as defences against a tachistoscopically induced threat. It was found that all the women in the study had a similar experience of a traumatic childhood and an adolescence in which their parents had addiction problems, divorce, frequently break-up of the home. The results of the interview indicate that those women who had overcome their drug addiction were able to seek help from others and to use this help in a constructive way. Their ability to utilze and create a constructive network was important in their process of constructing a new identity. The results of the DMTm-tes indicate that the women appeared to represent a given step in a line of psychological development involving the process og gaining freedom from drugs. Two fundamental questions are posed: What relevance does feminist research have to drug addiction research? What can that theoretical frame of reference contribute to an understanding of the women in the study? The therapeutical implication of the interview and the personality results obtained as well as quetsions of the constructing of female identity are discussed.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • gender, Applied and experimental psychology, social psychology, personality, drug addiction, Tillämpad och experimentell psykologi, women, DMTm
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1998 Jun 6
  • Department of Psychology, Lund University
Print ISBNs91-628-3047-3
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1998-06-06 Time: 10:15 Place: Lund University External reviewer(s) Name: Eliasson, Mona Title: Prof. Affiliation: University of Uppsala ---