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25 How. J. Crim. Just. 1 (1986)

handle is hein.journals/hjcj25 and id is 1 raw text is: 










The Howard journal Vol 25 No 1. Feb 86
ISSN 0265-5527



        The Drug-Taking Careers of

                      Opioid Users1


        TREVOR BENNETT and RICHARD WRIGHT
      Trevor Bennett is Senior Research Associate, Institute of Criminology,
                         University of Cambridge

      Richard Wright is Assistant Professor, Department of Administration
      of Justice and Center for Metropolitan Studies, University of Missouri
                               - St Louis

Abstract: The paper presents the findings of a research project which included the study of the
drug-taking careers of regular opioid users. Samples were drawn from among addicts currently
receiving a prescription from a NHS clinic, a general practitioner and a private practitioner and
addicts who were currently dependent solely on black-market supplies. The results derived from
extensive interviews showed that users exert substantial control over the progression and
development of their drug taking. The policy implications of a perspective on addiction which
attributes addicts with control and individual choice are discussed.

Traditionally, addiction has been explained  in terms of personal factors
which  predispose  individuals to drug use (see, for example, Gold  and
Coghlan  1976; Greaves  1974; Khantzian  1975). Little attention was paid
to the  psychological and  social processes by  which  users commence,
continue and cease drug taking. Apart from offering guidance on the most
appropriate  form of psychiatric treatment, the policy relevance  of this
work  was limited. Since the 1960s, however, an alternative approach has
emerged  which  does consider the processes involved in the development of
addiction. The  approach  is based on the concept popularised by Becker
(1963) of the drug-taking 'career'. According to Becker, the development
of drug  use can be viewed  as a progression  through a series of clearly
defined stages  or statuses. Movement   from one  position in the career
structure to another  is not inevitable, but depends  on various 'career
contingencies' such  as: motivation, aims  and  situational factors. The
'careers' approach  has greater relevance to the development   of official
policy. Knowledge  about the way  in which users commence  drug  use, for
example,  could  be important  in  the design of preventive  educational
programmes. Similarly, an understanding of the circumstances and
conditions  under  which  users terminate  drug  use  is relevant to the
creation of rational treatment and rehabilitation services.
   Most  of the research on the drug-taking  careers of opioid users (i.e.
users of heroin, methadone, opium  or other 'opium  like' drugs) has been
conducted  in the United States. The results of this research suggest that


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