From Medicinal Plant Compound to Disease Epidemic-- How Human Social Systems Transform Opiates and How Opiates Transform Communities

The past two decades have seen opiate use skyrocket in thousands of urban and rural places from coast to coast. A plant compound, used for centuries for pain relief or escape, enmeshed in a particular medical/law enforcement/economic regime in turn of the century North America, has become the disease rather than the tonic. As the opiate use 'epidemic' spreads like wildfire, we face not a virus or bacteria, but a socially-created plague. Expanding circles of dependence in turn transform communities into an ever more conducive environment for its deadly spread-- fear-based command and control policing strategies gain power, users face stigmatization and barriers to employment and stable housing, destruction of trades and automation in factories amplify this effect, multi-generational cycles of opiate misuse overshadow or preclude role models pointing to a creative way ahead, families are pulled apart by overwhelmed government agencies charged with protecting children from their parents.


We welcome paper submissions that investigate this essential feature of modern America through the lens of social and political ecology. Let's look together from new angles at this social disease crisis. Please send your submissions by November 17th to Alice Melendez, panel organizer;





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