An Uncertain Dominion: Irish Psychiatry, Methadone, and the Treatment of Opiate Abuse
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This paper investigates some productive ambiguities around the medical administration of methadone in the Republic of Ireland. The tensions surrounding methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) are outlined, as well as the sociohistorical context in which a serious heroin addiction problem in Ireland developed. Irish psychiatry intervened in this situation, during a time of institutional change, debates concerning the nature of addiction, moral panics concerning heroin addiction in Irish society and the recent boom in the Irish economy, known popularly as the Celtic Tiger. A particular history of this sort illuminates how technologies like MMT become cosmopolitan, settling into, while changing, local contexts.
KeywordsMethadone maintenance therapy Republic of Ireland Heroin addiction
Versions of this paper were delivered to the session “Historical and Contemporary Domains of Psychiatric Practice: From Center to Periphery” at the 2005 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, and the Anthropology Seminar at Maynooth (Autumn 2005). I would like to thank participants at both these sessions for their very helpful comments, particularly Janis Jenkins, who served as discussant at the AAA session. I would like also to thank Emma Heffernan, Ruth McLoughlin and Fiona O’Reilley, who read and commented on earlier versions of this work. Different parts of this research were funded by the Ballyfermot Area Partnership and Ballyfermot Drugs Task Force (1999), The Katherine Howard Foundation (1997–1999), and the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA), which provided me a teaching buyout in the Spring of 2003. This support facilitated this research. The National Advisory Committee on Drugs funded the work for Saris and Comiskey (2003) (see www.nacd.ie/activities/network_analysis.html). See also Comiskey et al. (2007).
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