Drug users are typically portrayed as worthless slackers, burdens on society, and just plain useless—culturally, morally, and economically. By contrast, this book argues that the social construction of some people as useless is in fact extremely useful to other people. Leading medical anthropologists Merrill Singer and J. Bryan Page analyze media representations, drug policy, and underlying social structures to show what industries and social sectors benefit from the criminalization, demonization, and even popular glamorization of addicts. Synthesizing a broad range of key literature and advancing innovative arguments about the social construction of drug users and their role in contemporary society, this book is an important contribution to public health, medical anthropology, popular culture, and related fields.
"Using a social constructivist perspective, the authors analyze media representations, drug policy, and underlying social structures, showing how these alleged 'useless' drug users are beneficial for demonization and criminalization by certain industries and social sectors. Overall, they question the subjectivity, exploitation, and the power and outcomes of 'othering' drug users. This reviewer became newly aware of the extensive degree of exaggerated bias (labeling) about drug users, and how this negativity clearly amounts to socially constructed prejudice. The perspectives and research findings are well presented, certainly illuminating, and intriguing when the the findings raise the question of why all drug users are worthless and burdensome to society. ... For anyone interested in a richly written social constructivist view about the social value of drug addicts. Summing Up: Essential."
"This is a fascinating book. It challenges existing stereotypes by unpacking their constructions and applications. And to further complicate the narrative, the authors confront conceptualizations of gender and race as they conflate in representations of drug users. This is an imminently readable book and will find excellent use in both graduate and undergraduate courses in anthropology, sociology, social work, criminal justice, and other fields. "
- --Linda Whiteford, University of South Florida
Chapter 1. The Social Construction of Drug Consumers
Chapter 2. Drug Users through the Ages: When Did Addicts Become a Separate Category?
Chapter 3. Representations of Addicts and the Construction of Prohibitions
Chapter 4. Imagine That: Drug Users and Literature
Chapter 5. Picture This: Pictorial Construction of Drug Users in the World of Film
Chapter 6. The Legal Construction of Drug Users: Policy, the Courts, Incarcerating Institutions, Police Practice, and the War on Drugs
Chapter 7. Drug Users in Social Science: The Others We've Made
About the Authors