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Creating the American Junkie

Addiction Research in the Classic Era of Narcotic Control

Caroline Jean Acker

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Heroin was only one drug among many that worried Progressive Era anti-vice reformers, but by the mid-twentieth century, heroin addiction came to symbolize irredeemable deviance. Creating the American Junkie examines how psychiatrists and psychologists produced a construction of opiate addicts as deviants with inherently flawed personalities caught in the grip of a dependency from which few would ever escape. Their portrayal of the tough urban addict helped bolster the federal government's policy of drug prohibition and created a social context that made the life of the American heroin addict…

Heroin was only one drug among many that worried Progressive Era anti-vice reformers, but by the mid-twentieth century, heroin addiction came to symbolize irredeemable deviance. Creating the American Junkie examines how psychiatrists and psychologists produced a construction of opiate addicts as deviants with inherently flawed personalities caught in the grip of a dependency from which few would ever escape. Their portrayal of the tough urban addict helped bolster the federal government's policy of drug prohibition and created a social context that made the life of the American heroin addict, or junkie, more, not less, precarious in the wake of Progressive Era reforms.

Weaving together the accounts of addicts and researchers, Acker examines how the construction of addiction in the early twentieth century was strongly influenced by the professional concerns of psychiatrists seeking to increase their medical authority; by the disciplinary ambitions of pharmacologists to build a drug development infrastructure; and by the American Medical Association's campaign to reduce prescriptions of opiates and to absolve physicians in private practice from the necessity of treating difficult addicts as patients. In contrast, early sociological studies of heroin addicts formed a basis for criticizing the criminalization of addiction. By 1940, Acker concludes, a particular configuration of ideas about opiate addiction was firmly in place and remained essentially stable until the enormous demographic changes in drug use of the 1960s and 1970s prompted changes in the understanding of addiction—and in public policy.

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Creating the American Junkie

Caroline Jean Acker

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Reviews

A well-written and thoughtful book... Acker presents a fascinating account of how addicts' negative image came to dominate public and official perceptions, as well as how it forced some users into the mold. Her careful analysis of research findings will make this book of interest to historians, drug-abuse workers, and anyone else who wants to examine the origins of American drug policy.

Fascinating... A compelling journey through drug-addiction history... This book lays a firm foundation for re-evaluating our approach to the study of addiction.

Draws on familiar themes to create a novel and compelling portrait of the times.

This book makes its most original contribution by probing the intersecting interests of professionals and policy makers who believed in managing the drug problem through a self-conscious combination of legal control and scientific knowledge... Acker's history of drug policy and science during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century illustrates the recent guise of an old social divide between deserving and undeserving Americans.

A thorough and compelling survey.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
288
ISBN
9780801883835
Illustration Description
2 line drawings
Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1. Heroin Addiction and Urban Vice Reform
Chapter 2. The Opportunistic Approach
Chapter 3. The Technological Fix: The Search for a Nonaddicting Analgesic
Chapter 4. Constructing the

Introduction
Chapter 1. Heroin Addiction and Urban Vice Reform
Chapter 2. The Opportunistic Approach
Chapter 3. The Technological Fix: The Search for a Nonaddicting Analgesic
Chapter 4. Constructing the Addict Career
Chapter 5. The Junkie as Psychopath
Chapter 6. Healing Vision and Bureaucratic Reality
Chapter 7. The Addict in the Social Body
Conclusion
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index

Author Bio
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Caroline Jean Acker

Caroline Jean Acker is an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University and cofounder of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, a needle exchange program in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. She is co-editor, with Sarah W. Tracy, of Altering American Consciousness: Essays in the History of Alcohol and Drug Use in the United States, 1800–2000 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2004).