What can a realist analysis offer to understanding the rural ‘meth epidemic’ in Australia?

Dr Natalie Thomas1

1University Of New England, ,

Over the past decade, there have been claims of a ‘methamphetamine epidemic’ in various parts of rural Australia. Drawing on multiple secondary data sources, this paper analyses the problem of rural methamphetamine use and methamphetamine-related offending in rural and regional areas of New South Wales through the lens of critical realism. A critical realist perspective encourages a recognition of methamphetamine use as a real issue of concern for people living in rural areas. The analysis highlights how the different dimensions of harm, social marginalisation, relative deprivation, and stigma underlie the rural methamphetamine problem. The paper concludes with a discussion of how a critical realist approach informs a more community-centred and ‘democratically inclusive’ (Stevens, 2019) analysis of rural methamphetamine use as a drug policy issue.


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