Date of Award

Spring 5-3-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Bridie McGreavy

Second Committee Member

Liliana Herakova

Third Committee Member

Jessica Miller


There is ever-increasing attention to Maine’s substance use problem, particularly in the case of opioid-related deaths. With yearly death tolls increasing, citizens of Maine wonder what the best methods are in approaching the issue and preventing further harm. While statistics about the issue are repeated in news coverage and by political figures, there is a need to understand what substance use and recovery actually mean to individuals who experience them on a daily basis. The following thesis uses Mohan J. Dutta’s (2008) culture-centered approach to health communication to explore the meanings of substance use and recovery as well as the challenges and strategies articulated by individuals. The culture-centered approach privileges the voices of those affected by a health issue and realizes the validity of their experiences, opposed to outside “expertise” imposed by professionals who may be unfamiliar with the affected population. A total of 13 interviewees who are either in recovery, worked in recovery, or both participated in semi-structured interviews and were asked about their experiences in substance use and recovery. This thesis suggests that three categorical themes pulled from the interviews – meanings of recovery, barriers in recovery and strategies in recovery may open a new space in understanding the issue at hand. Because these themes are drawn from the interviewees whose lives are embedded in such issues, future approaches from the state may be more well-informed with an attention to these voices.