This qualitative study, based on a series of 30 in-depth interviews and 109 economic surveys conducted with active heroin users residing in and around Detroit, Michigan, describes reported patterns of heroin use and income generation activities. In spite of lack of access to regular, legal employment, we found that many participants displayed a dedication to regular daily routine and a sense of risk management or control. These findings are discussed relative to past research on heroin addiction as well as recent research on the changing nature of employment. We argue that this sample fits somewhere in between the controlled or working addict, and the "junkie" or "righteous dope fiend" of urban lore. We draw a connection between these stable patterns of addiction and income generation and the demands of informal and insecure labor markets. Finally, we discuss the implications of these findings for further research, interventions, and public policy.
'I Always Kept a Job': Income Generation, Heroin Use and Economic Uncertainty in 21st Century Detroit
INTRODUCTIONThe image of the heroin "junkie," as it appears in everyday culture and popular discourse, implies extreme lack of control over one's own daily behaviors. Compulsive, self-destructive "junkies" have been portrayed in novels, films and television shows, from The Man with the Golden Arm to Midnight Cowboy, and from Requiem for a Dream to The Wire. Though more nuanced than two-dimensional stereotypes found elsewhere, these portrayals nonetheless convey multiple assumptions about heroin as a drug, and about addiction itself. For example, heroin may be seen as a uniquely addicting substance; heroin addicts may be viewed as uniquely impulsive individuals, with "altered time horizons" (Petry, Bickel, & Arnett, 1 998); or addicts in general may have a biological disease or disorder (Acker, 2001; Battin et al., 2008; Gossop, 1982; Wise, 2000), which by definition is beyond their control. Social scientists who study addicts within specific contexts, on the other hand, have consistently portrayed problem heroin use as a complicated pattern of behavior that must be seen in relation to a dynamic array of external factors, not reducible to any one cause or explanation (Acker, 200 1 ; Dai, 1 937; Friedman, 2002; Gossop, 1982; Lindesmith, 1968; Musto, 1973; Waterston, 1993; Zinberg, 1984).The Harlem heroin abusers described by Preble & Casey (1969) and Johnson et al. (1985) were "on the street" during a good part of the day and night, engaged in a constant "game," in which scoring heroin multiple times each day was the driving goal. These "righteous dope fiends" were proudly defiant of conventional expectations of work and routine. Similar depictions of the frenetic "hustling" subculture of urban heroin addicts have been provided by Agar ( 1 973) and Stephens (1991). According to Stephens, it was primarily a commitment to this street heroin culture, rather than the pharmacological effects of the drug itself, that produced the compulsive criminal behavior associated with the street addict. Nonetheless, what emerged was a particular type of individual behavior pattern that was strongly associated with heroin use. This behavior pattern clearly maps onto the junkie stereotype described above.However, other ethnographic research has demonstrated considerable variability in drug dependence behaviors, evident across a range of social environments. For example, the "working addicts" documented by Caplovitz ( 1 976) maintained routines that were similar in many respects to those of the "normal" working population, and their drug habits directly reflected their work incomes, rather than the other way around. Zinberg and others (Zinberg & Jacobson, 1976; Zinberg, Harding, Stelmeck, & Marblestone, 1978; Zinberg, 1984) used case studies to illustrate the existence of stable patterns of heroin us...