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Friday, August 20, 2010

Politics of Addiction Research

On a topic somewhat related to a prior post, no doubt many of you recently applied for ARRA grants via the Recovery Act and some of you even received an award.  Recently, one of those awards became a focus in a skirmish between Republicans and the Obama Administration.  The debate was covered by Greg Sargent, of the Washington Post, in his recent posting entitled “Obama admin skewers GOP attack on stimulus cocaine monkeys”.

Interestingly enough, 2 of our recent CPDD Media Award Winners, Dr. Nancy Campbell, Associate Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and author of Discovering Addiction, and William C. Moyers, vice president of foundation relations at Hazelden's Center for Public Advocacy, also have weighed in on this subject.

Dr. Campbell wrote, in Chapter 1 of her book "Discovering Addiction":

“What American publics and institutions define as worthy cures for drug addiction depends on who is perceived to be addicted, on what drugs addicts depend, on the meanings attributed to addiction, and on patterns of social status.  The modal late nineteenth-century American addict was an upper- or middle-class white woman maintained on morphine by her physician.  Respectable “medical addicts” gave way to an urban underclass that used narcotics for “nonmedical” purposes or “recreation”.  These new addicts were culturally distinct from their precursors:  these poor, working-class, increasingly African American and while ethnic males were viewed as part of the “dangerous classes.”1  How addicts are treated very much depends on their membership in specific social groups; they cannot be lumped together as raceless, classless, or genderless…”

Mr. Moyers wrote online in the Politics of Addiction:

“…addiction is a bipartisan illness and that it does not discriminate…President Barack Obama's  drug czar, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, has called for an outright end to the failed "war on drugs," shifting the emphasis from tough law enforcement and international interdiction to prevention and treatment.”

Sheril Kirshenbaum also had an interesting piece echoing these themes at the Discover website.

Whether or not scientists get involved, politics shapes addiction research and law enforcement funding policy, so its worth seeing how different sides debate this issue.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

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