Fries, lies and alibis: the impact of methamphetamine use on moral values and moral conduct

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Despite the influence of the moral model of addiction, there remains a lack of knowledge about what methamphetamine users say about methamphetamine’s effects on morality. As part of a qualitative study on the life-course of users of methamphetamine in Aotearoa-New Zealand, this paper analyses the impact methamphetamine use exerted upon 42 former users’ moral values and and moral conduct—and how their ‘internal dialogue’ processed this intense experience. The initial motivation was to more closely adhere to societal norms, such as being a happier person, a more productive worker, or better parent or spouse. The negative impact methamphetamine use exerted upon interviewees’ moral values-and-conduct was minor for one-quarter, moderate for over a third, and major or severe for over a third. Freud’s id-ego-superego model and Marc Lewis’ neuroscience-based attraction-vs-willpower model was used to analyse the ‘internal dialogue’ between addictive desires and moral conscience. Methamphetamine activates addictive desires, which conflict with user’s moral conscience and results in guilt, shame, self-accusation and self-contempt. Frequent methamphetamine use may be partly understood as a normative failing, whereby users struggle to live up to their expectations and moral norms. Since interviewees believe methamphetamine “enhances the existing person,” individual and environmental factors strongly influence methamphetamine-related outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Aotearoa–New Zealand
  • id–ego–superego
  • methamphetamine use
  • moral conduct
  • moral values


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