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The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 10 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record. Attention Score in Context. This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 1. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 04 February All research outputs.

Altmetric has tracked 12,, research outputs across all sources so far. This one is in the 23rd percentile — i. So far Altmetric has tracked research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of This one is in the 11th percentile — i. Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. She thought she was not going to end up like the women she saw gathered outside the only homeless shelter in the suburbs. Although she was now going to the homeless shelter for the hot meal they gave at lunchtime, she was adamant that this was a very temporary situation.

The hot meal was the only free resource available to the. At the time, Dee was sleeping in her car in a parking lot, where an improvised Hooverville of old cars, instead of tents, was parked behind a bigbox retail store. Hooverville was the term used to describe the shantytowns of makeshift dwellings that sprang up in public parks during the Great Depression. Now, in the Great Recession Grusky, Western, and Wimer , the Hoovervilles I saw in suburban areas were made up of old cars in deserted parking lots.

Dee had no gas money, and she left her car in the parking lot while she walked to the shelter for food. At the shelter she talked with some other young people in a similar situation, who referred her to a trailer park. There she met a group of youths living in one small trailer. All were using methamphetamine supplied by the young man who rented the trailer. It was not clear how the drugs were paid for, although interviews with other women who lived there indicated that some of them got methamphetamine in exchange for sex.

At their young age, they did not consider this exchange prostitution but instead consensual casual sex. Dee was raised in a solidly middle-class suburban family and had lived in a tranquil suburban neighborhood all her life. She said she was ashamed of living in this run-down trailer park inhabited primarily by immigrant families and the suburban poor, and she swore that this was only a temporary situation.

But she did not want to return to her mothers house. Apparently, her mother, who lived only half an hour away by car, would not speak with her and told the rest of the family that Dee was a thieving crazy junkie who could not be trusted. Dees flawless skin and pearly white teeth gave no indication that she had been injecting methamphetamine for the last two years. Having learned her drug skills from an ex-boyfriend, she was relatively clueless about the drugusing world outside her former group of suburban high school kids who used drugs.

For example, despite having shared syringes in the past, she had never been tested for HIV or hepatitis C and did not know where to go to get tested. I learned that she had been subjected to severe domestic violence at the hands of a much older boyfriend. As we sat in my car surrounded by s-era mobile homes squeezed next to each other in a haphazard fashion, she revealed that she hated her current situation.

Im in a place where I dont really belong, but I am choosing to do this. I asked her why she chose this. Because Im a drug addict, she said without a thought, as if she had heard this reason before. She could not explain to me what that meant. But I will never get to the point of stealing or prostituting myself, she assured me. My rock bottom is before that. Contrast Dee with a group of women I interviewed who are part of the suburban poor, the suburban brand of the urban outcast found in. Anderson ; Wacquant ; Wilson The suburban poor typically lived in what were essentially hidden areas of the suburbs.

Many of these communities were no more than a collection of dilapidated trailers more isolated than the middle-class trailer parks where residents enjoy private pools, laundry services, and a residential custodian. The suburban poor trailer parks were typically without any of these features, and no custodian was present to ensure the residents safety or address their complaints. Most were not walking distance to any public transportation, which is essential for employment and access to the social services for people without cars.

Often located at the end of a dirt road and buried in the woods, they became enclaves of danger as well as poverty.

NCSACW - Research on Methamphetamine

Having conducted fieldwork in urban, rural, and suburban environments, I noted the similarities and differences between these poor neighborhoods. In contrast to the poor in rural and suburban enclaves of poverty, the poor in urban areas often have access to a vast array of social services accessible via public transportation. In fact, recent studies on the migration of the urban poor to suburban areas find a dire lack of access to needed health and social services for the suburban poor Allard and Roth As I became familiar with the exurbs, the area outside the initial suburban ring surrounding the city, I learned what it means to live in communities that are intentionally or inadvertently overlooked by the publicly funded social safety net.

Being invisible to public services, the residents in suburban and exurban enclaves of poverty were left to rely mainly on aid provided by religious organizations. This private support was not enough, and as more and more suburban homeless began to appear at their doors, many of the local churches decided to provide for the poor by giving their donations to the one local homeless shelter that controlled all distribution in the area. The shelter divided the deserving poor from what it identified as the undeserving poor, and anyone who screened positive to a drug and alcohol test were part of the latter.

The lives of women from the suburban enclaves of poverty were typically a consequence of intergenerational rural poverty unaddressed by social services. Their current proximity to the suburbs, which had spread to incorporate their communities, seemed to have provided little additional social support. These women had been exposed to domestic violence as children, often were exploited sexually before they became adults, and had experienced violence at the hands of men throughout their lives.

Those over forty years old had few teeth left and suffered from chronic disease or the cumulative effects of previous injuries. The theories that explain problematic drug use by the suburban poor are different from those that explain methamphetamine use by middle-class. They face a lifetime struggling with depression and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol like Mia.

But unlike Maggie, who still had mainstream social capital that provide networking resources, the marginalized poor suburban women typically have only each other to count on for helppeople who were just as poor and without resources. The women in this book represent a range of methamphetamine users with a range of reasons why they use methamphetamine. Their stories also illustrate the structural forces and structural violence that affect drug users in the United States, which is more detrimental in many ways for women than for men Bourgois, Prince, and Moss For example, the stigma attached to a woman who is incarcerated for drug use is greater than it is for a man, especially if the woman is a mother.

Later chapters of this book depict the insiders view of the lives of women who use methamphetamine, framed in sociological perspectives. Throughout the presentation and interpretations of their lives, I use scholarly theories to inform my analyses. My goal, however, is to look beyond the explanations of scholars and professionals by using the voices of the women and their interpretation of their lives as revealed in the interviews.

In the interplay between analysis and narrative, I depict the everyday reality of suburban women who use ice with a goal toward understanding how to reduce the problems and suffering merely glimpsed here. While I draw from many theories, my purpose is not to support one side or another of a current theoretical debate but instead to engage theory so that it becomes useful for the people being studied Bourgois To this end, I use the typology of drug-use phases I developed, informed by life course, social control, and self-control theories Boeri This typology illustrates phases in the drug-use trajectory conceptualized as a drug career Becker The in-depth stories recounted by the women illustrate the divergent pathways taken, influenced not merely by choice but also by structural constraints and the social capital resources available to them.

A more detailed explanation of this typology is provided in appendix B. In the rest of this introductory chapter, I give an overview of methamphetamine-use literature to set this qualitative study in historical and contemporary context. I start with a synopsis of the history of methamphetamine and its pharmacological-based effects, followed by epidemiological reports of data collected in the United States. Next I review the literature on drug use and women who use drugs, focusing on the literature pertaining to the use of methamphetamine by women. This background material is precursory and meant only to provide a current academic perspective of methamphetamine use and the.

The womens stories are the heart and soul of this book. Methamphetamine: A Brief Historical and Pharmacological Background Methamphetamine is similar in chemical structure to amphetamine and can be smoked, snorted, injected, taken orally, or taken anally. The fastestacting and most potent methyl group of amphetamines, chemically known as methamphetamine hydrochloride, became the popular street drug known as meth, crystal meth, tina, or speed.

Another type of methamphetamine, known as crank, is typically produced in small labs and usually associated with users living in rural areas or among motorcycle gangs. A smokable and chemically purer form of methamphetamine, called ice, was reportedly first produced in Asia and smuggled into the United States Abadinsky The popularity of ice and its rapid spread across the globe, particularly in the United States, is reportedly due to its smokability, which, as with smoking cigarettes and crack, results in more addictive behaviors. Methamphetamine epidemics have more than a forty-year history in the United States Anglin et al.

As with other epidemic drugs, the popularity of methamphetamine rises and falls over time, often linked to a particular subculture Agar ; Reinarman and Levine Ice first received national attention when a near epidemic in Hawaii spread to California in the late s and continued to diffuse across the United States from the West Coast to the East Coast. Concern over methamphetamine use decreased during the s as a growing crack epidemic dominated national attention.

Attention returned to methamphetamine during the s when a form of methamphetamine made from anhydrous ammonia, often used in fertilizers, was produced in labs built on farms in the U. As the increased use of the drug continued across the country, methamphetamine abuse became known as an American disease Sloboda, Rosenquist, and Howard Often, as the popularity of one drug wanes, a new drug trend appears to attract public attention.

Andrew Golub and colleagues warn that while drug epidemics come and go, journalists and politicians commonly abuse the term drug epidemic to arouse concern and serve political agendas , While we should use the term epidemic with caution, methamphetamine use did continue to increase and spread into all U. Public concern over methamphetamines infiltration across social and economic barriers is now supported by empirical evidence. Methamphetamine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and releases dopamine neurotransmitters to the brain while simultaneously.

This produces a pleasurable experience along with increased activity and decreased appetite. In low doses, its effects are perceived to improve functioning Lende et al. Effects of methamphetamine may include insomnia and loss of appetitepursued for functional reasons. Adverse physical effects include increased blood pressure and hyperthermia.

High doses can increase body temperature to dangerous levels and cause convulsions. Long-term psychological effects of methamphetamine may include violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, and delusions National Institutes of Health [NIH] While there is little evidence of methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms similar to those based on the classical definition of withdrawal from heroin Lindesmith , methamphetamine withdrawal reportedly may produce fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, inability to concentrate and even suicidality Barr et al.

The severe dental problems attributed to extensive use of methamphetamine, popularly known as meth mouth Shaner et al. Methamphetamine users expose themselves to risk of HIV infection through injection and unsafe sexual practices Compton et al. Treatment studies find that methamphetamine users typically show more severe mental and health problems than other drug users entering treatment, and more effective strategies for treating methamphetamine users are needed Brecht, Greenwell, and Anglin ; OBrien ; Rawson et al. Methamphetamine production is of particular public health concern because of the frequent explosions, fires, and toxic fumes resulting from clandestine production labs Connell-Carrick ; Hannan Unlike cocaine and heroin, methamphetamine is not derived from a plant but is instead synthetically produced in a laboratory.

A methamphetamine lab inventory might include pseudoephedrine, which is found in over-thecounter decongestants, and chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, lye, and red phosphorus. Because it is relatively cheap and easy to manufacture, methamphetamine has been produced in clandestine labs in rural areas for years; however, makeshift labs are increasingly found in suburban and urban areas, notably in motel rooms, trailers, and vans Ward et al.

The literature on methamphetamine highlights the health hazards to the users, their family, and the community posed by clandestine methamphetamine labs Lineberry and Bostwick ; Potera While the majority. Under this legislation, over-the-counter products containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine are subject to strict purchasing regulations. These anti-meth provisions introduced safeguards to make certain ingredients used in methamphetamine manufacturing more difficult to obtain in bulk and easier for law enforcement to track Bren The unintended consequence of recent policy aimed to reduce availability of methamphetamine appears to be increased small-batch production.

Studies conducted after the law was passed show that more users are selfproducing small batches of poorer-quality methamphetamine, which may result in problematic health effects Sexton et al. As a result of increased regulation, methamphetamine producers are attempting novel ways to concoct precursors. One method, called the cold cook method, is cheaper but uses ingredients that may be more toxic than those found in the purer forms of the drug produced in large labs Boeri, Gibson, and Harbry This method involves mixing toxic ingredients in a container usually a fish tank and burying it in the ground for thirty days.

Crystals forming along strings hanging from the lid of the tank have methamphetamine qualities, according to field reports. Since the cold cook method produces less noxious gas and fewer explosions, production is less detectable by law enforcement officers. The new methods of producing methamphetamine also make it harder to know the estimated number of current users, since epidemiological indicators rely on reports from police and public health records.

Drug Use, Social Context, Health, and Women The women in this book who initiated and continued use of methamphetamine were influenced by the increased use of methamphetamine in the southeastern region of the United States. The use of illegal drugs by women should also be set in historical perspective, however. Only recently have women been the focus of research on drug use. What these studies show is that the effects of drug use and the social context of drug use are different for women than for men. Illicit drug use among women began receiving greater attention in the s, which is late compared to their male counterparts.

A key aspect for female drug users is their stigmatization as bad women because they violate gender-role expectations Campbell ; Ettore ; Zerai and Banks This stigmatization is encountered not only in society at large but also within the drug scene Boyd ; Sterk Several studies show womens drug use to result in further victimization Chesney-Lind and.

Just as the emancipation of women that started in the s resulted in an increased involvement of women with deviant activities, including drug use F. Adler , it also resulted in the cultural reproduction of female roles. Lisa Maher found that the cultural understandings that continue to shape the legitimate world of glass ceilings are reproduced in street-level drug and sex markets , More recent literature emphasizes the womens agency and empowerment T.

Anderson While it is important to recognize the extent to which social conditions impact female drug users access to power and agency, we cannot ignore how structural violence is also reproduced in the drug scene Bourgois, Prince, and Moss Much of our early knowledge about drug users derived from studies of prison, treatment, or street-based populations that were primarily male samples Preble and Casey ; Waldorf During the latter part of the twentieth century, a number of empirically based books provided additional insights on female drug users. For example, Marsha Rosenbaum interviewed one hundred female heroin users and found narrowing role options for women in both mainstream and drug societies as their drug use continued.

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She also found that prostitution was the fastest way for female heroin users to make money, since few legal work options were available to them. Subsequent literature supported these findings but revealed increasing diversification of female drug roles. Mahers inner-city sample included forty-five female crack users in New York City involved in sex work.

Maher identified three types of hustles that contributed to the womens income: drug business hustles, nondrug hustles, and sex work Like Rosenbaum, she found that only sex work provided a reliable and consistent means of income generation for the drug-using females. Preferring the known routines involved in sex work, females engaged in subordinate work compared to males, who more often became high-level dealers in the drug-using culture.

Maher contends that the hierarchy found in the drug-using culture strengthened the reproduction of existing gendered relations. Studies on female drug users usually are made up of samples recruited from low-income neighborhoods. A Miami sample of street-based female sex workers Surratt and Inciardi, focused on the social context of homelessness. Compared to women who were not homeless, the homeless women had more reports of childhood abuse and higher levels of victimization in the past three months.

Female prostitutes who use heroin were found to be primarily polydrug users who often migrated to using crack cocaine Inciardi, Lockwood, and Pottieger Avril Taylor conducted an in-depth study of twenty-six crackusing females recruited from inner-city streets. Taylor found that females typically were initiated into drug use by male partners, and they usually learned to provide illegal sources of income from male partners, although some learned from female friends in the drug world as well.

In Taylors sample, only six women used prostitution as a means of acquiring drug money. The women in her study generally viewed prostitution as a shameful occupation engaged in only when their drug use increased. Claire Sterk developed a typology of female drug roles in her study on inner-city women who were active users of crack cocaine. Sterk found that the women in her sample fell into four main income-production categories : 1 women who cooked crack for drug dealers; 2 women mainly engaged in prostitution; 3 women involved in illegal activities other than prostitution; and 4 women who started crack at a late age and had few income-generating skills.


The women in the last category usually bartered sex for crack. As the average age of drug users increased, largely because of an aging baby boomer cohort, research focused on the influence of age on female drug users T. Anderson and Levy ; Boeri, Sterk, and Elifson While younger female drug users may find increased agency and empowerment through their involvement in the underground economy, since their youth supplies bargaining power, older women generally face a reduction in resources in the drug-using world.

Moreover, female drug users of all ages are at greater risk than males for being victims of violence and for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases through heterosexual contact a risk that increases with age Lorvick et al. Since epidemiological data report statistics collected from known populations of drug users, such as those in the criminal justice system, treatment, or hospitals, we know less regarding illicit drug use among hidden populations Page and Singer Suburban areas have less direct oversight by the criminal justice system or public health care services, and methamphetamine users in these areas remain less visible.

Moreover, many middle- and upperclass users are able to avoid detection and are therefore not included in drug treatment and criminal justice records, and female drug users often are veiled from public view in suburban and rural communities. Recent studies call for a greater understanding of methamphetamine use in diverse social contexts, specifically use by women Dluzen and Liu ; Sheridan et al. Women and Methamphetamine According to epidemiological data, female participation in the methamphetamine-using social culture increased at rates similar to those of males Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

However, as a result of their double stigmatization in both the mainstream and drug world, females have fewer resources to help them cease drug use and are more vulnerable to the numerous health risks associated with methamphetamine use Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA] Moreover, little is known regarding patterns of cessation of methamphetamine use that are specific to women. A study by Patricia Morgan and Karen Ann Joe comparing male and female methamphetamine users provides increased insight into gendered use patterns among this hidden population.

Their study sample of methamphetamine users included women who worked in the drug economy in three cities: San Francisco, San Diego, and Honolulu. The women in this sample played a larger role in the illicit drug economy than found in previous studies. More than 30 percent of males and 22 percent of females received their primary source of income from illegal drug activities.

Furthermore, the women reported that their involvement in drug dealing increased their self-esteem and help them to control their drug use. Many of the women participated in mainstream society as citizens with traditional female roles while concurrently participating in the drug economy as sellers of illicit drugs.

The authors concluded that research on drug use should move beyond the traditional disenfranchised minority groups, since many drug users, both male and female, do not live on the extreme marginal edge of society Findings from studies conducted on gender differences among methamphetamine users show that females generally start earlier, are affected differently, appear more dependent on methamphetamine, suffer more adverse effects, and respond more favorably to treatment than do males Brecht, Greenwell, and Anglin ; Westermeyer and Boedicker Female methamphetamine users also show more indicators of depression than male users and are more likely to report that they use methamphetamine for selfmedication and to lose weight Hser, Evans, and Huang ; Lorvick et al.

Remarkably, although some women who use methamphetamine endure greater stress in family relationships due to gendered social roles, recovering female methamphetamine users show significantly better improvements in family relationships than do males Dluzen and Liu They are also more vulnerable to the adverse health effects of drug use, however. Drug-related risk factors include years of use; frequency of use; receptive syringe sharing; distributive syringe sharing; and sharing of cookers, cotton, rinse water, cleaning syringes, and smoking equipment. Sexual risk behaviors include number of partners; multiple sex partners at one setting; engaging in sex while under the influence of drugs; unprotected sex; same gender sex partner; and an injecting-drug user sex partner Maher ; Singer The focus of much AIDS research in the United States has been on populations with known high risk for HIV transmission, such as men who have sex with men Klitzman, Pope, and Hudson ; Ostrow ; Williams and Miller , female sex workers Blankenship and Koester ; Sterk , and inner-city populations in economically depressed neighborhoods Inciardi and Pottieger ; Singer The risk of drug-related AIDS transmission is greater among socially vulnerable populations, minority groups, and women Inciardi ; Kwiatkowski and Booth ; Sterk Research shows that injection-risk behaviors among drug users are socially learned and influenced by the social context of drug use Neaigus et al.

Yet little is known about the social context of suburban drug users, specifically the suburban context of female methamphetamine injectors. Studies on inner-city samples of drug users found that females in poor neighborhoods suffer from the normalized violence prevalent in their culture arising from social hierarchies and injustices Sterk ; Taylor While poor urban neighborhoods have received much HIV- and drug-related research attention, and low-income rural areas are studied for drug-related health issues specific to isolated regions Haight et al.

The symbolic and structural violence that researchers have found to pervade the lives of inner-city and rural drug users is, however, present but less visible in the social settings of suburban homes, trailer parks, and motels where methamphetamine use occurs. Women on Ice: A Summary As Maggies story illustrates, the lives of women who use methamphetamine are not quite like those depicted on television and in newspapers showing the faces of meth. Neither are they like the life of the suburban marijuana-dealing housewife in the popular television show Weeds. Since they are a largely hidden population, little is known about suburban women who use ice.

This book fills the gap in the literature with an in-depth analysis of women who use methamphetamine while living in the suburbs. In this book I identify the complexity of drug-use patterns found among new and diverse social networks while employing the conceptual tool of drug use as a career and focusing on turning points and transitions in social roles throughout the life course Becker ; Elder ; Laub and Sampson ; Rosenbaum ; Waldorf I question assumptions about suburbia as the idyllic social milieu for family life where young parents move to escape the violence and social pressures of the city.

Moreover, I question the efficacy of the current stigmatization of women, particularly mothers, who use methamphetamine, and I propose solutions to address the conditions that lead to problematic use. I do this by providing a better understanding of how structural forces and seemingly arbitrary decisions made by those in power have far-reaching effects that can save or destroy countless human lives.

Within each chapter I weave classical and contemporary theories used to explain drug use and societys reaction to drug users. While I discuss a number of theories and concepts, no single theory explains all the situations and lives of the women in this study. Researchers on drug use employ different models drawn from psychological, sociological, anthropological, or medical disciplines.

These theories can be used in combination for a broader understanding, or they can be used alone to focus on different aspects of methamphetamine use. More recent developments of these theories are enhanced by and expand on existing addiction discourse. The concepts and theories presented are used to view the womens stories from different perspectives, not necessarily to suggest that one is better than another.

In chapter 2, I describe the ethnographic methods I used. Many people ask me how I find drug users and get them to talk to me; here I answer these questions by explaining how ethnographic research on drug-using populations is conducted, using tangible and often graphic examples. A more academic explanation of the methodology is provided in appendix A.

The women in this book are presented anonymously. I gave each woman a pseudonym by applying names that were popular for babies born at least twenty years before or after the birth period calculated from the womens actual ages. Specifics regarding residence, employment, and other descriptors that are not essential to the analyses were changed from the original to protect anonymity. The women portrayed in these pages represent events and behaviors similar to those described by other women in the study, and their stories might sound familiar to anyone who knows a methamphetamine-using female.

If a woman in this book appears to be someone you know by the same name, I can assure you the name and resemblance are coincidental. In the remaining chapters, the stories of the women illustrate the theoretical perspectives discussed and help fill the gaps in our understanding of the gendered trajectories of methamphetamine use across time and place. To organize the womens lives analytically, I employed a typology of the. These phases are described in more detail in chapter 2 and in appendix B. The three women presented in chapter 1 were chosen to illustrate another primary organizing pattern I found among the women defined by social class and age: the suburban youth culture SYC , the suburban working and middle class SWMC , and suburban poor SP.

These organizing themes informed my analyses of the womens lives as I started to group the women by what I heard unfold in their stories up until the time of the last interview. Dee represents the suburban youth culture, Maggie represents the suburban working and middle class and Mia represents the suburban poor. In this suburban sample, race and ethnicity were not found to be characteristics that separated categories of female methamphetamine users.

The most obvious and interesting defining factor that emerged was age. The young people who used methamphetamine were more similar in how they used and why they used, regardless of class distinctions, than were older women. While no distinct age was identified as a cutoff point, generally those under age twenty-five had similar patterns and used drugs in similar contexts that were different from the women who were older. As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, they also expressed confidence that they would never become meth junkies like the women they saw who used for years.

The younger females tried to avoid these women and sometimes spoke of the older female users in terms that were derogatory, perhaps because they feared becoming like them. The younger women typically started using methamphetamine with friends for recreational reasons and continued using because they liked the effect of having energy, being happy, and staying thin. They tried to avoid bingeing using methamphetamine for days at a time without sleeping or eating , even though some had binged on methamphetamine in the past.

Dee was an example of the younger generation of methamphetamine users who grew up in the suburbs. She will be seen again in this book. The second category, the suburban working and middle class, included women who were similar in many ways despite differences in social capital and economic means. Their life histories showed that the invisible line between class distinctions was permeable. In the suburban communities, the working class and middle class had few differences in social norms.

For example, a woman who was raised in a middle-class family often lived a working-class life as an adult married to a laborer. Conversely, a woman who was raised in a working-class family might acquire middle-class status through higher education, marriage, or business acumen. These were women who had already. The social capital inherent in suburban working- and middleclass norms and values influenced not only their drug-use patterns but also societys reaction to women who use drugs after they are no longer considered young.

I note that although some of the women were born into or still had families who could be defined as upper class, none of the women were considered upper class at the time they were interviewed. The class status was always precarious, particularly after the Great Recession of Grusky, Western, and Wimer The prolonged recession resulted in the loss of considerable working- and middle-class employment opportunities and the convergence of the 99 percent, to use twenty-first-century parlance.

Maggie was one of the women who had been raised in a middle-class home but who stayed on the brink of the working class for most of her adult life. The final category is a class distinction that emerged after I was introduced to a group of women who lived below the social and economic standards of the working class but typically remained outside the radar of the social services designed to keep these women and children from destitution.

They lived in communities I call suburban enclaves of poverty. Many of the women had been raised in enclaves of poverty either in urban or rural areas. Some of these rural areas were now incorporated into the suburbs. Others who were raised in working-class, middle-class, and even upper-middle-class communities ended up in the suburban enclaves of poverty due to life circumstances. Mia is an example of this category, and her story will be explored more fully in the following pages.

The failure of our social safety net to stop these womens descent into abject poverty resulted in some women being forced to engage in risky behaviors, including dealing drugs, prostitution, and reliance on men who had more resources than they did. I called this category the suburban poor.

The vocabulary of poverty has always been problematic Katz , 3. The enclave nomenclature aptly fit the social environment of these largely hidden and forgotten suburban communities Bourgois The term underclass, used to describe the urban underclass and the truly disadvantaged, and the more recent term urban outcasts Wacquant ; Wilson are appropriate descriptors of the poor I found in the suburbs, but all these descriptors bring other connotations with them, so I use the simplest termthe poor.

The suburban poor were not a homogenous group, but at this time in their lives they had similar patterns of drug use. Typically in and out of homeless shelters, jails, and treatment facilities, these women learned various tricks of the trade to survivegenerally not relying on social services but on their own wits and fading sexual attractiveness.

Gendered Lives of Drug Use in the Suburbs

Some said they had made bad choices at one point in their lives, but now they had few choices. Most were. Contemporary structural inequalities and social inadequacies brought on by the Great Recession forced many into their current survival mode among the suburban poor. Their eyes reflected suffering and pain, and their voices often broke at some point in the interview. They were at the bottom of the social hierarchy and they knew it.

And they used methamphetamine to forget. Fieldwork My research assistant and I had driven over fifty miles to a small college town southwest of the university offices where we had met earlier that morning. A recent contact had informed me that this town was full of meth users. Along the way we stopped at shopping strips and gas stations that looked like promising areas to hang our fliers.

Once in town, we talked to coffee shop and bar servers to get a feel for the clientele, who appeared to be primarily college-age students and health-conscious folks who appreciated the towns crunchy granola ambience. It was hot and humid and the streets were deserted. The quiet was broken when a few older men with long gray ponytails made a noisy scene as their Harleys crossed the semideserted square. We went to the restaurant where the Harley riders stopped to eat to see if we could strike up a conversation, but as we drew closer I got the impression they were local college professors out for a ride.

Dean, my research assistant, agreed, and we kept walking. We did not have any leads to write about, but that was not unusual for our first day in a new area. Having canvassed the entire downtown on foot, we returned to my car and were driving around the outskirts of town looking for bars when I got a phone call. The male voice sounded full of energy a good sign for a prospective interviewee. He said he had heard from a friend of a friend about my methamphetamine studies and wanted to know more.

He had plenty, and his knowledge of methamphetamine norms indicated to me he was a user. After he seemed convinced that I could be trusted, he asked how many people I wanted to interview. I made an appointment to meet him and his friend later that afternoon before I discovered he was located about thirty miles northeast of the university we had left that morningalmost one I was used to such long travels. Ethnography in the suburbs entails a lot of driving. We had arranged to meet at a public library, where I often met interviewees during the day.

At night I usually met them in the local Waffle House or another all-night diner. I called the library ahead of time to reserve the only two private rooms available. When I arrived in the town, I checked out the main street for field note purposes. Half the stores were empty; the rest were old and quaint, an indication that this was a dying commercial zone. The library was walking distance from the main street, with a parking lot twice the size of the library building. The lot was practically empty. There were only a few people in the library, and none that fit our callers description. Dean waited inside while I waited outside to look for any male who drove up and seemed to be about thirty to forty years old, the age my caller said he was when I talked to him on the phone earlier.

The few men who arrived were not my caller. I was about to suspect that he decided against it when I got another phone call from him. Im here, I said, Where are you? I lost my ride, he replied. But someone is coming to get me, and I will be there soon. He didnt have a cara frequent situation for methamphetamine users I interviewed.

Most of them had to rely on others for transportation because they did not have a working car or their license had been suspended. I usually offered to pick up females who needed a ride, but I had never met this man, so I said I would wait. He said he would be there in half an hour. I went inside to avoid attracting attention in the parking lot, and after thirty minutes I went outside again. It was getting dark when I saw an old model car drive by with two women in it. One looked my way.

They parked and walked toward the library. I smiled at them. By any chance, are you looking for Miriam? I asked one. They looked at me oddly. You the interview lady? Yes, I do interviews. Tommy sent us, she said. We came to do the interviews.

Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use Among Suburban Women

How come Tommy couldnt come? I inquired. He couldnt make it today. He said we should do them, and he will call you later. This was not an unlikely story. But I asked if they could call Tommy so I could talk to him. Tommy made some excuse on the phone but assured me these women were okay to interview. I suspected that Tommy had sent these women to check me out firstwhich turned out to be the case. I was fine with having two more women to add to my sample. Women were harder. I talked to the women in the privacy of the library room to make sure they were eligible for my research. After years of doing drug interviews, I knew the questions to ask for a screening.

The women checked out. They knew the effects of methamphetamine, what it looked like, and how much it cost. They also knew a few ways to make methamphetamine that were local to the area, and other details only current users would know. Tommy called me to set up a few interviews after this night, but each time he could not make it for one reason or another. He moved. His ride never showed up. He broke his leg and was in the emergency room. This raised suspicion, but I have heard the strangest stories from methamphetamine users and typically they were validated through ethnographic inquiry.

For example, when I finally met Tommy, he limped toward me with his foot in a cast, a validation of his previous excuse for not showing up. I was able to conduct his interview by suggesting I come to where he wasat the time he was living in what appeared to be a boardinghouse located in the farthest county that was still considered a suburb of the metropolitan area. I took two research assistants with me since he said there were two more women who wanted to do the interview. The women were waiting at the house, along with Tommy on his crutches, and passed the eligibility screening. Months later I met Tommy and one of the first women I had interviewed.

They told me they were stopping methamphetamine use since they wanted to have children. I took them out to eat at a Mexican restaurant off the beaten track and we talked about their future. The woman was about ten years younger than Tommy; neither one of them had a job. I knew they both had children already; she had lost custody of hers, and he visited his children when he was near the state where they lived.

I wished them luck. I had seen lives change beforewhy not theirs? Tommy and his friends provide an example of the ethnographic methods used to recruit prospective participants in a study focused on illegal and stigmatized behaviors. Every person interviewed is recruited in a different way, but the common pattern is that I remain in the field and talk to anyone who shows interest.

I give everyone my contact number on a card or a flier. Someone calls me. I meet them and they trust me. They refer more people who trust me based on their friends word. I have learned how to look for indicators of when someone is not telling the truth about drug use. If something appears odd, I confer with my community consultants to get a better understanding. Ethnography is a flexible and reflexive activity that is difficult to explain or describe because it changes by setting, time, and actors involved Charmaz ; Lofland et al. I have been recruiting and interviewing drug users for more than ten years.

People often ask me how I find the users and how I can trust them. The short answer is I go out and talk to everyone. Treating people with respect, of course, is needed, but beyond common civility, I am open and honest. Respect can appear deceitful when forced. My deference to their situation is real but at the same time I challenge what appears suspicious when the situation warrants it. I have heard that my sincere questions and my honest responses to their questions engendered trust.

I am empathetic toward drug users lives, having had a brother who used drugs all his life, and this probably shows in my interaction with others in similar situations. When I can, I help those who need help in small ways. For example, I sometimes try to help the respondents find a job if they ask, although that has become almost impossible in the recession economy.

I will look for doctors who will see them or homeless shelters that will take them. I bring them warm coats or buy a hot meal. I spend a lot of time driving them somewhere. I have to do this selectively, since funding does not pay for anything outside the research protocol, and helping them is not part of the Institutional Review Board IRB approved study.

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It does help with recruitment, but I do this because I know about their situation, and I know that little acts of kindness establish my reputation as someone who can be trusted. I gain the trust of the people I interview to be a better ethnographer and because I do care, but I always am conscious of remaining a researcher and not becoming a social worker, which is not my role. The objective of the first study was to gain an understanding of emerging trends among methamphetamine users in the suburbs, focusing on how they initiate, maintain, moderate, remit or resume use of methamphetamine over the life course of one hundred suburban dwellers.

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The goal of the second study was to gain a deeper understanding of gendered drug-use trajectories and risk-behavior patterns, focusing on risk awareness, risk behaviors, health care utilization, and accessibility to health care services among suburban women who used methamphetamine.

Both studies used a qualitative research design. Qualitative methods have been shown to be particularly applicable for studies among hard-to-reach and marginalized populations, specifically drug users Lambert et al. Qualitative methods allow researchers to identify a wide range of users, as well as to gain a better understanding of the meanings and motivation of use, specifically from the users.

The qualitative method used in the suburban studies involve ethnography, which is based on deep familiarity with the social setting from the perspective of those involved Geertz This method of data collection requires the researcher to spend considerable time in the field, not only to become familiar with the environment of the study population but also to develop contacts and trust relationships P.

Adler ; Page and Singer Three main types of data collection were used: ethnographic participant observations; drug history and life history matrices; and audio-recorded indepth interviews. The second study included a follow-up interview and a focus group interview. These methods are further explained in appendix A.

I conducted the ethnographic fieldwork and interviews alone or with trained research assistants. Building a good team is an important part of research. The first research assistant I hired I met while in the field looking for potential interviews. My strategy that night was to approach anyone sitting in a certain public area, show them a little flier I had made, and explain that I was a professor conducting research. Since many of the people frequenting this suburban town square were students at the university or at least knew of the university, my role as a professor conducting research was not questioned.

Typically I approached people who were alone or with a small group. To be clear, I do not approach people and ask if they use methamphetamine. My flier asks Do you know someone who uses methamphetamine? I find most people to be interested, and they usually ask more questions, such as what the study is about or if people in the study are given methamphetamine to use, which draws us into a conversation. After talking a few minutes, they might tell me that they know of someone to whom they will pass on the flier. I point out my phone number on the flier and remind them to tell the interested person to call me.

I actually got a call one day from someone who got the flier from his friend who was a teller at a bank who I remember talking with as I withdrew money. The point is that I recruit all the time and anywhere I am in order to reach a diverse population. On this night, I saw one young man sitting alone in a coffee shop patio. He looked as if he might be someone who could have connections to a diverse social network, judging from his long dreadlocks.

While I try not to stereotype, I knew that not many people sported dreadlocks outside the city, and very few could be found in this conservative county known for its ultraright-wing politics. In his case, my intuition was correct. I approached the young man and gave him a flier. He read it and said he did not know anyone. Since he seemed slightly defensive, I thanked him and moved on to a group of young women at a table across the patio.

They were interested in my work, and I sat down to talk with them about the study. A few said they. The young man with the dreadlocks had watched my conversation with the women, and he came over to me. Still holding the flier in his hand, he mumbled that he might know someone. He sat down at the table and we talked about the study. I learned he was a student at the same school where I taught. His name was Dean. I invited him to come around to my office later in the week. Dean came to my office a few days after this encounter. As I suspected, he had a large social network of friends and acquaintances who would qualify for the study.

I asked Dean to go out on field research with me as a community consultanta term applied to people who are familiar with the field. Within a few weeks, Dean was hired as a research assistant and started training to be an ethnographer. He was born, raised, and attended school in the suburbs, so his insights on suburban drug use were invaluable.

He also had instant street credibility with everyone we met thanks to his demeanor and insider knowledge, and without his expertise the study would have taken much longer. After training research assistants in fieldwork and interviewing, I tried to match interviewers with interviewees as much as possible by age, gender, or race. The insights provided by those with similar demographic backgrounds were usually helpful during the interview and especially during the coding of the interview data.

Fieldwork was typically conducted in teams of two. Our field of ethnographic research covered the suburbs and exurbs of a huge metropolitan statistical area MSA. Canvassing this area with fliers, we visited bars, clubs, and coffee houses. Strip malls hosting tattoo shops, Laundromats, and pool halls were also popular. Trailer parks, motels, and all-night diners were added as we found them, or as we were referred to specific sites by a community consultant. Participant Observation Participant observation can be categorized as overt or covert participant observation in public or private settings; the researcher may be an insider or outsider, and the participant can be more or less involved in the activity being studied Lofland et al.

Direct observation in drug research is needed to understand the social interactions of drug-using communities Bourgois The type of observation used here was as a trusted outsider in both private and public spaces.

Ice Towns: Crystal Meth Addiction in Regional Victoria

I was not directly or knowingly involved in druguse activities. For example, I often drove people to places they needed to go, but to my knowledge this was not for the purpose of buying or selling drugs. Typically, I learned more from the conversation we had while we were together in my car than I did in the interview. I never hid the fact that I was carrying out research. I found that if I let people know immediately that I was conducting research, I was more likely. I did this in subtle ways that changed depending on the setting and the actors.

For example, I did not flash our fliers in a bar but instead talked with people, usually the bartender. Rapport building is the key to obtaining participants and gathering valid data for this type of study Lambert et al. In addition, assuring the participants that their information is safe and will not be used against them is important. For this reason, I obtained a certificate of confidentiality from NIDA that protected our data and research team from court subpoena. I also allowed participants to use pseudonyms, and I did not ask for last names or exact birth dates.

The trust and camaraderie engendered by being honest was also important. I answered every question a participant or potential participant asked about the research study and process, and there was nothing to hide except the identity of other participants. The participants and community consultants verified that they appreciated my candidness regarding the research process. Suburban Ethnography Books of urban ethnography have provided a wealth of information on the ongoing changes in drug use in urban social contexts and how to conduct ethnographic research among hidden populations Schensul et al.

In this book I apply the insights of urban ethnography to a new field that has been rarely studiedsuburban landscapes. While a geo-historical analysis of the suburban social ecology of the study site is beyond the scope of this book, the immediate historical context of our studys geographic ecology became important to the development of the research. At the time of the study, the most popular illegal drug other than marijuana used in the area was methamphetamine.

Crack cocaine was used when available and in specific communities closer to the city. Prescriptions pills were becoming the primary drug for many suburban methamphetamine users as a result of the proliferation of pain pill clinics, called pill mills, in the area. Although there were a few small pockets of what might be considered open-air drug markets, the majority of drug dealing was in private.

The economic reality of the study site is also useful background data. Many of the women recounted stories of having lived relatively stable and comfortable lives in the suburbs, but they lost their economic security when they or their spouses or partners lost their jobs. After the Great Recession of , fewer jobs and more job seekers made it difficult to find sustainable income.