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Retrospection and recollection of influences of physical activity and sport on the development of substance addiction among people in recovery from substance addiction Open Access


Other title
Physical Activity
Realistic Evaluation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
de Grace, Laurie Anne
Supervisor and department
Rodgers, Wendy (Physical Education and Recreation)
Examining committee member and department
Joyce, Anthony (Psychiatry)
Clark, Alex (Nursing)
Truscott, Derek (Education)
Physical Education and Recreation

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Arts
Degree level
The development of substance addiction in the context of physical activity (PA) and sport is an issue about which little is known. Investigating through the first hand experience of people dealing with substance addiction provided some insight into the role of PA and sport, and the possible connections with the development of substance addiction. Using qualitative realistic evaluation, the purpose of this study was to examine and identify the perceived main mechanisms associated with participation in PA and sports and the subsequent development of substance addiction. The research questions were: 1. What perceived mechanisms linked participation or non-participation in physical activity or sport with the development of substance addiction? 2. How do these mechanisms vary by context? 3. What different mechanisms are associated with different patterns in the development of substance addiction? One time, individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted. A small pilot study included people (5 men and 2 women, ages 28-61) in recovery from substance addiction for over one year. The main study used a convenience sample of people (8 men and 5 women, ages 20-59) currently in treatment at a private treatment centre who had completed 30 days of treatment for their substance addiction. One addictions counsellor was also interviewed. The participants’ involvement in PA and sport ranged from limited to a high level of commitment, up to and including professional sports. None of the participants were completely inactive. Initiation of substance abuse began between the ages of 12 and 18. The contexts identified were social acceptance of alcohol, family influences, heritability, role models, school culture, sport culture and loss of sport. The mechanisms identified were personal characteristics, coping strategies, availability of substances and relationships. The interactions between the mechanisms and contexts were discussed as they related to the outcome, the development of substance addiction The social acceptance of alcohol and the heritability of addiction in their families appeared to have substantial influence on most of the participants’ initial use and then the development of addiction. An absence of appropriate coping strategies was described by most of participants, they turned to substance use for relief. It was also very common for the participants to feel that they did not fit in. For those who were involved in sports, these feelings existed regardless of their level of success in sports and tended to contribute to their substance use. Sport participation is traditionally thought of as providing protection against substance use. For the competitive athletes among the participants, substance use was often initiated and continued in the company of their sport teammates. Substance use commonly included alcohol and other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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