Hell, Im an Addict, but I Aint No Junkie: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Heroin Career
Miriam Williams Boeri
Peter K. New Award Winner, 2001
This study applies sociological theories to ethnographic fieldnotes, survey data, and life histories of current baby boomer-age heroin users.* By analyzing the lived experience of active heroin users in the baby boomer cohort, which includes both short-term and long-term use, diverse trajectories in the heroin career can be examined. This study provides not only a description of todays heroin addict but also a typology of drug users based on insights collected from the users own reports. A synthesis of symbolic interaction, social construction, and life course theories provide the framework for this analytical ethnography of the everyday lives of older heroin users. The grounded theory analysis of in-depth interviews and drug use surveys allowed a typology of the heroin career to emerge. The heroin-using career typology presented here is composed of nine categories that differ by maintenance of social roles and control of drug use. The typology also acts as an aide to promote changes for more humane drug policies and provides an additional tool for treatment, intervention, and law enforcement to help users maintain social roles and reduce the criminal element in drug-related activities.
Ms. Boeri is a doctoral candidate (ABD) at Georgia State University and a research coordinator in the Department of Sociology. She received her undergraduate degree from Kennesaw State University with a major in communications. Having spent 15 years in Europe and conversant in two foreign languages, Ms. Boeri is interested in cross-cultural research on drug use issues, with a focus on identity reconstruction and role exit.
*The project from which this data was drawn, Trends, was funded by a National Institute of Health/ National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant (RO1DA12639). Principal investigators are Dr. Kirk Elifson, Georgia State University, and Dr. Claire Sterk. Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health.