Irrational addicts and responsible pleasure seekers: Constructions of the drug user

Margaret Pereira, Kerry Carrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Historically, drug use has been understood as a problem of epidemiology, psychiatry, physiology, and criminality requiring legal and medical governance. Consequently drug research tends to be underpinned by an imperative to better govern, and typically proposes policy interventions to prevent or solve drug problems. We argue that categories of 'addictive' and 'recreational' drug use are discursive forms of governance that are historically, politically and socially contingent. These constructions of the drug problem shape what drug users believe about themselves and how they enact these beliefs in their drug use practices. Based on qualitative interviews with young illicit drug users in Brisbane, Australia, this paper uses Michel Foucault's concept of governmentality to provide insights into how the governance of illicit drugs intersects with self-governance to create a drug user self. We propose a reconceptualisation of illicit drug use that takes into account the contingencies and subjective factors that shape the drug experience. This allows for an understanding of the relationships between discourses, policies, and practices in constructions of illicit drug users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-389
Number of pages11
JournalCritical Criminology
Issue number3
Early online date2015
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

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