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Homeless drug users and information technology: A qualitative study with potential implications for recovery from drug dependence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Joanne Neale, Caral Stevenson

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1465-1472
Number of pages8
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Volume49
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

King's Authors

Abstract

Background: Having access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) is a prerequisite to meaningful participation in society. Objectives: This paper seeks to: i. explore the engagement of homeless drug users (HDUs) with ICTs and ii. discuss the findings with reference to recovery from drug dependence. Methods: The study design was qualitative and longitudinal, involving data collected in 2012-13 via 52 semi-structured interviews with 30 homeless drug users (25 men; five women). Participants were recruited from 17 hostels in two English cities. Interview data were analyzed using Framework. Results: HDUs had access to ICTs, used ICTs, and wanted to engage with them more. Experiences of digital exclusion were a function of participants' inability to afford ICTs, the relatively cheap and poor quality technology available to them, limited knowledge about ICTs, and lack of support in using them. That HDUs were often unable to take full advantage of technology because they had nobody to explain what their devices could do or to show them how they worked was ironic given that using ICTs to (re)establish and maintain relationships were functions of technology that HDUs particularly liked. Conclusions: The physical, human, cultural, and social capital of HDUs influenced their access to, and use of, ICTs. Equally, ICTs were themselves an important recovery resource. Services and others should endeavor to provide HDUs with easy access to good quality technology, as well as offers of support and education so that all individuals have the knowledge and confidence to make optimum use of the technology that is available to them.

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