Factors contributing to the cessation of solvent use

Kathryn Elizabeth Irvine
Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary
August, 2006


The purpose of this study is to explore the lived experiences of Aboriginal peoples who formerly used solvents and identify the factors that helped them to stop using. The paucity of academic literature about solvent use suggests that it is not exactly an important or interesting area of study and tends to myopically focus on the pathology of Aboriginal peoples addiction to solvents and/or the environmental "dysfunction" of communities experiencing difficulties with solvent use. As academic discourse both informs and is informed by the media, it is not surprising that the discursive strategies of print media contribute to the flow of modern racism in newspaper accounts of solvent use among Aboriginal peoples. Working from a strengths perspective, we might challenge the lines of continuity between the discourses of modern racism in the media and the academy to develop more compassionate responses by listening to the people who stopped using solvents and learning from their knowledge, wisdom and understandings.

Grounded in a research paradigm valuing relational knowledge-building and the co-creation of understandings, this study explores the factors contributing to the cessation of solvent use among Aboriginal peoples in the tradition of hermeneutic phenomenology as set out by Gadamer (1960/2000). This study takes place primarily in Calgary, Alberta and involves 10 recorded conversations with five Aboriginal peoples. A hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of our conversations highlights the significant thematic dimensions of people's experiences, situations and relationships identified by the five people I talked with. I have presented these generative themes as short stories or creative non-fictional accounts that trace the initiation of solvent use, the function that using solvents served and the turning points that provided motivation to change in order to better understand the factors contributing to the cessation of solvent use.

As the guiding framework, the Gadamerian dialectic and co-authored understandings illuminate stories of hope, resiliency, strength and the important social issues surrounding solvent use and its cessation in ways that help us begin to inform and transform the milieu of our professional education, research, policy-making and practice in order to create a better world for us all.