Risk, shame and the public injector: A qualitative study of drug injecting in South Wales.

Rhodes, T; Watts, L; Davies, S; Martin, A; Smith, J; Clark, D; Craine, N; Lyons, M; (2007) Risk, shame and the public injector: A qualitative study of drug injecting in South Wales. Social science & medicine (1982), 65. pp. 572-585. ISSN 0277-9536 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.03.033

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Drug injecting in public places is associated with elevated health harm among injecting drug users (IDUs). Yet there is little research exploring the lived experience of injecting in public places, and specifically, a need to explore the interplay of public injecting environments, risk practices and social marginalisation. We undertook 49 qualitative interviews with IDUs in South Wales, UK, in six locations. Analyses focused on injectors' narratives of injecting in public places and risk identity. Findings show how the lived experience of public injecting feeds a pervasive sense of risk and 'otherness' among street injectors, in which public injecting environments act as contextual amplifiers of social marginalisation. Injecting in public places was characterised by urgency associated with a fear of interruption, a need to maintain privacy to prevent public exposure, and an awareness or sense of shame. We argue that daily interactions involving public exposure of injecting status, combined with the negative social meanings ascribed to public places used for injection, are experienced as potentially degrading to one's sense of self. We conclude that the public injecting environment is experienced in the context of other forms of public shaming in the lives of street injectors, and is thus productive of symbolic violence. This highlights tensions between strategies seeking to create safer communities and environmental interventions seeking to reduce drug-related health harm, including recent innovations such as the 'drug consumption room' (DCR).

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
PubMed ID: 17475383
Web of Science ID: 248553800015
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/10048


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