'Hell I’m an Addict, but I Ain’t No Junkie:' An Ethnographic Analysis of Aging Heroin Users
Sociology and Criminal Justice
Although the number of drug users over the age of 35 is growing at a faster rate than other age groups, a gap in knowledge of how people age with drug use remains. This study focuses on heroin users who were born between 1945 and 1965, the baby boom cohort. Based on questionnaires and in-depth interviews with 38 active heroin users in Atlanta, Georgia, variations in their heroin use were explored through modified grounded theory methods, including constant comparison. Numerical and narrative data revealed a typology of active heroin users who are members of the baby boom generation. The two salient dimensions of the typology are the level of control over heroin use and the users’ social roles, specifically the status the users allocated to their social role as a heroin user. The typology includes: 1) controlled occasional users; 2) weekend warriors; 3) habitués; 4) marginal users; 5) problem addicts; 6) using dealers/runners; 7) using hustlers/sex workers; 8) junkies; and 9) relapsing addicts. Increased insight into the heterogeneity among current baby boomer heroin users is relevant when designing comprehensive prevention and intervention programs.
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