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Health Services


Aimee Ferraro


Heroin addiction is a growing epidemic in the United States. The need for proper treatment programs accessible by heroin users who wish to or are mandated to participate in recovery programs is a growing need, and pathways to sobriety for ex-offenders have presented in literature as understudied. The purpose of this study was to examine heroin-addicted offenders' experiences prior to and after release on their paths to sobriety. This study followed a qualitative phenomenological approach based on the theory of personal causation, which posits that individuals see events in life as either driven by themselves or caused by others, both of which affect internal motivation. An empirical phenomenological approach was used to explore how this group of individuals perceived or experienced heroin addiction and their subsequent attempts at sobriety A purposeful sample of 15 heroin-addicted offenders were interviewed in a jail in a rural county of Wisconsin. Upon re-entry, 4 participants completed follow- up interviews. The results showed that external motivators such as social and treatment factors were separate from internal factors, although external motivators could influence the way a person makes internal choices. Results were obtained by performing coding on the semi-structured interviews both by hand and within the Atlas-ti analysis program. The theory of personal causation supports and is supported by the findings of this study. Implications for positive social change include a better understanding of the needs of heroin-addicted offenders moving from incarceration to release in treatment program development, thereby reducing harm to the heroin user, family members, and communities by decreasing relapse, recidivism, and chances of overdose and death.