Background: Understanding how formerly imprisoned drug users perceive the possibilities and problems associated with entering the job market is important as it could help the reintegration of these individuals into society. The aim of this study was to explore formerly imprisoned polydrug users’ narratives about unemployment.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 former prison inmates with extensive prior drug use. The interviews were coded and analysed using a categorical-content, narrative analysis approach.
Results: The interviews revealed that although the respondents did not regard themselves as having been unemployed, some mentioned stress during periods in which they lacked a legal occupation. The participants also talked about the importance of being committed to one’s work and described that it was not only employment in itself that was important, but also being able to value or appreciate their employment. Most respondents argued that they had never been dismissed from work because of their drug use, but descriptions of workplace deviance were common in the interviews, e.g. stealing, selling drugs, burglary, using drugs at work.
Conclusions: The respondents seemed to lack an identity as either unemployed or employed, which may constitute a problem when they enter the job market in the future.