Baccus Experiences of alcohol dependence: a qualitative study


Despite the increasing incidence of alcohol misuse and the costs it incurs, British society continues to hold equivocal and ambiguous attitudes towards drinking, and understanding of the nature of alcohol dependence and related issues is limited.

This qualitative study aimed to investigate the experiences of individuals with alcohol dependence to enhance understanding of the illness, identify key issues and common themes and provide insight into the experiences of the participants during their alcohol dependent period and recovery.


A qualitative approach, using narrative method, was used. Eight participants, all members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), were interviewed by the researchers. Using a grounded theory approach and content analysis, the in-depth narratives of the eight participants were systematically analysed.


While participants continued to deny the existence of a problem to those around them, their behaviours indicated that they were aware of the problem but were afraid to admit it openly through fear of other people’s reactions.

Participants generally regarded GP’s as helpful but other health professionals less so, especially nurses and Accident and Emergency staff.

Participants considered that the success of treatment depended on their own motivation and willingness to engage in radical behaviour change.

They considered that reaching this stage represented a turning point in their illness. The point at which this stage was reached appeared to be different for each participant.


This systematic analysis of a small sample of alcohol dependent individuals gives insight into their experiences during alcohol dependency and the journey to recovery.

The findings suggest that denial of the problem to the outside world occurs simultaneously with individuals being aware of their problem.

Participants felt the illness carries a stigma and their negative experiences of health professionals other than GP’s suggests that nurses and other health workers need to revise their understanding of alcohol dependence and their approach to it.

AA was a significant factor in recovery for these participants.

Research report; J Fam Health Care. 2007;17(6):211-4. Experiences of alcohol dependence: a qualitative study. Dyson J.

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