754.3 Governing drug use among young people: Crime, harm and contemporary drug practices

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 3:00 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Margaret PEREIRA , Law and Justice Research Centre , Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

This paper presents PhD research findings of interviews with thirty young people who use illicit drugs, and fifteen professionals involved in the governance of drugs.  The sample of research participants comprised homeless young people, students and workers, who use a variety of different drugs in a range of social and cultural contexts. Respondents working in a professional capacity include police officers, medical doctors, health workers, and drug educators, who were interviewed about their views and roles in the governance of illicit drugs. The paper argues that young people’s experiences of drug use are embedded in their social and economic circumstances, cultural norms, and self-identities. Some research participants described their illicit drug use as related to multiple social, legal, and medical problems. However, the majority reported that they use drugs for recreation and fun, and described their drug use as unproblematic. Using Foucault’s concept of techniques of the self, the research theorizes young people’s drug use as a practice of the self that is constituted within the governance of illicit drug use. This conceptualization of drug use is opposed to the notion that drug use is necessarily problematic behavior, or associated with social or individual pathology. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of biopolitics, the paper argues that legal and medical strategies of drug governance are not simply authoritative responses by professionals to the use of harmful chemical substances.  Rather, drug use as a problem for government has been made knowable by a range of veridical scientific discourses. Finally, the paper discusses the relevance of contemporary understandings of drug use for the diverse ways in which young people use drugs.