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Mother’s little helper? Contrasting accounts of benzodiazepine and methadone use among drug-dependent parents in the UK

Chandler, Amy; Whittaker, Anne; Williams, Nigel; McGorm, Kelly; Cunningham-Burley, Sarah; Mathews, Gillian


Amy Chandler

Anne Whittaker

Nigel Williams

Kelly McGorm

Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Gillian Mathews


Aims: To explore the ways in which opioid-dependent parents accounted for their use of opioids and benzodiazepines during and after pregnancy. Methods: Longitudinal qualitative interviews [n = 45] with 19 opioid-dependent adults recruited in Scotland, UK, were held during the antenatal and post-natal period. Interviews focused on parenting and parenting support within the context of problem drug use and were analysed using a narrative informed, thematic analysis. Findings: The majority of participants described using benzodiazepines in addition to opioids. Almost all indicated a desire to stop or reduce opioid use, whereas cessation or reduction of benzodiazepines was rarely prioritised. In stark contrast to opioid dependence, benzodiazepine dependence was portrayed as unproblematic, therapeutic and acceptable in the context of family life. Whereas opioid dependence was framed as stigmatising, benzodiazepine use and dependence was normalised. An exception was benzodiazepine use by men which was occasionally associated with aggression and domestic abuse. Conclusions: Drug-dependent parents attach different meanings to opioid and benzodiazepine use and dependence in the context of parenthood. Divergent meanings, and stigma, may impact on stated commitment to stability or recovery from dependent drug-use. Attention should be paid to the way in which policy and practice regarding OST and benzodiazepines reflects this divergence

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 29, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2014
Publication Date 2014-12
Deposit Date Feb 23, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 9, 2020
Print ISSN 0968-7637
Electronic ISSN 1465-3370
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 6
Pages 470-475
Keywords Benzodiazepine; opioid dependence; pregnancy; parenting; substance-related disorders
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Mother’s little helper? Contrasting accounts of benzodiazepine and methadone use among drug dependent parents in the UK (500 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2014 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted.

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