Recovery from problem drug use: what can we learn from the sociologist Erving Goffman?

Neale, J., Nettleton, S. and Pickering, L. (2011) Recovery from problem drug use: what can we learn from the sociologist Erving Goffman? Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 18(1), pp. 3-9. (doi:10.3109/09687631003705546)

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In this commentary, we critically review the contribution of the sociologist Erving Goffman (1922–1982) to understanding recovery from problem drug use. Previous research has indicated that drug users have a ‘spoiled identity’ and must restore a ‘normal’ or ‘unspoiled’ identity in order to recover. This argument has been linked to Goffman’s classic work <i>Stigma: Notes on the management of a spoiled identity</i> [1963, Harmondsworth: Penguin]. Despite its evident appeal, linking recovery to repairing a spoiled identity has a number of problems. These include the derogatory connotations of ‘spoiled’, and the fact that the ‘momentary’ spoiled identity that Goffman likely intended is easily lost to a more ‘totalizing’ spoiled identity, from which it can be difficult for individuals to escape. Given such shortcomings, we consider how Goffman’s broader dramaturgical work might contribute to our understanding of recovery processes. Dramaturgy, which focuses on the performative aspects of selfhood and the relational and situational nature of identity, suggests ways that individuals can work on their identity (and recovery) projects without over-prioritizing abstinence. We suggest that dramaturgy is more useful than the notion of repairing a spoiled identity for understanding and facilitating recovery. Nonetheless, it has limitations and other sociological perspectives provide fertile ground for future debate

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pickering, Dr Lucy
Authors: Neale, J., Nettleton, S., and Pickering, L.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
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:Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy
Publisher:Informa Healthcare
ISSN (Online):1465-3370

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