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Towards Contagion as a Relational Phenomenon

  • Following Illegal-Legal Heroin & Tracing Social/Material Communications 

Towards Contagion as a Relational Phenomenon: Following Illegal-Legal Heroin & Tracing Social/Material Communications

The disease model of drug addiction perceives illegal heroin as one of the most dangerous and contagious substances, infecting heroin users with addiction. For the last three decades, the outpatient treatment response in Denmark has tried to contain the contagiousness of illegal heroin through, for instance, maintenance treatment with substitution medicine (an artificial long acting opiate). But that response has only been partly successful. Recently, heroin assisted treatment has become a treatment option for severe drug users, and thus, we now see two kinds of heroin; an illegal, dangerous and contagious kind of heroin, and a legal kind of prescription heroin meant to produce a kind of immunity towards some of the harms of addiction (e.g. the craving for more drugs & users losing control over their lives) and thereby stabilize the social lives of these users. But how is a communication between a drug and an individual related to other kinds of (social) relations?

Some key questions are: What is it that is contagious when we follow the drugs, illegal and legal heroin? Which social and material relations become visible when we follow enactments of illegal heroin, and which become visible when we follow enactments of legal heroin? What can a focus on such relations teach us about different kinds of contagion? And does a focus on these relations tell us something about the conditions under which legal heroin succeeds/does not succeed in containing the contagiousness of illegal heroin?

Contact Researcher

Bjarke Nielsen

Ma et PhD