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I love you... and heroin: care and collusion among drug-using couples.

Author information

  • 1National Development and Research Institutes/ Medical and Health Research Association of NYC, NY, NY, USA. simmons@ndri.org

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Romantic partnerships between drug-using couples, when they are recognized at all, tend to be viewed as dysfunctional, unstable, utilitarian, and often violent. This study presents a more nuanced portrayal by describing the interpersonal dynamics of 10 heroin and cocaine-using couples from Hartford, Connecticut.

RESULTS:

These couples cared for each other similarly to the ways that non-drug-using couples care for their intimate partners. However, most also cared by helping each other avoid the symptoms of drug withdrawal. They did this by colluding with each other to procure and use drugs. Care and collusion in procuring and using drugs involved meanings and social practices that were constituted and reproduced by both partners in an interpersonal dynamic that was often overtly gendered. These gendered dynamics could be fluid and changed over time in response to altered circumstances and/or individual agency. They also were shaped by and interacted with long-standing historical, economic and socio-cultural forces including the persistent economic inequality, racism and other forms of structural violence endemic in the inner-city Hartford neighborhoods where these couples resided. As a result, these relationships offered both risk and protection from HIV, HCV and other health threats (e.g. arrest and violence).

CONCLUSION:

A more complex and nuanced understanding of drug-using couples can be tapped for its potential in shaping prevention and intervention efforts. For example, drug treatment providers need to establish policies which recognize the existence and importance of interpersonal dynamics between drug users, and work with them to coordinate detoxification and treatment for both partners, whenever possible, as well as provide additional couples-oriented services in an integrated and comprehensive drug treatment system.

PMID:
16722522
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1524734
Free PMC Article
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