"I don’t think there’s much of a rational mind in a drug addict when they are in the thick of it": towards an embodied analysis of recovering heroin users

Nettleton, S., Neale, J. and Pickering, L. (2011) "I don’t think there’s much of a rational mind in a drug addict when they are in the thick of it": towards an embodied analysis of recovering heroin users. Sociology of Health and Illness, 33(3), pp. 341-355. (doi:10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01278.x)

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Abstract

Much of the sociological literature on recovery from heroin use has been located within the symbolic interactionist tradition. Empirical work has revealed the salience of the self and social identity for the recovery process. The focus upon actors’ meanings and cognitions is important, however what tends to be absent is any consideration of former users’ bodies. The aim of this paper therefore is to focus upon the embodied aspects of recovery from drug use. To this end the paper deploys the concepts of bodily ‘dys-appearance’ and ‘habitual action’ as sensitising concepts in order to undertaken an analysis of data generated by 40 qualitative interviews undertaken with 22 men and 18 women who are working towards overcoming their addiction to heroin in England. It is argued that it is analytically and empirically viable to distinguish between using bodies and recovering bodies. In the case of the former habitual action is relatively structured, urgent and routinised, however in the case of the latter habitual action is more difficult to establish and maintain because the bodily demands or dys-appearances associated with the transition from heroin use are relatively more multifaceted, unfamiliar and diverse. The body techniques and practices associated with embodied reproduction of using and recovering bodies are often pre-cognitive and can therefore easily be overlooked and yet, embedded as they are in mundane everyday activities, they constitute a crucial part of the process of recovery from heroin.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:heroin, recovery, embodiment, dys-appearance, habit, qualitative, England
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pickering, Dr Lucy
Authors: Nettleton, S., Neale, J., and Pickering, L.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Sociology of Health and Illness
ISSN:0141-9889

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