Heroin Abuse and Collective Identity: Correlates and Consequences of Geographical Place

  • R. Terry FurstEmail author
  • Rebecca Balletto


Ethnographic and qualitative research were utilized to examine how the effects of geographic place can be related to heroin abuse and collective identity in non-metropolitan areas (NMAs) in the mid-Hudson region of New York State, U.S. The socio-geographic consequences of this interrelationship are explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with 237 recent admissions to drug treatment at 28 facilities in the seven mid-Hudson region counties. The effects of geographic place and collective identity emerged in interviews through narratives relating to heroin experimentation, subsequent dependence, and the lure of New York City. Heroin experimentation and the New York City lifestyle are collectively constructed by many respondents as “cool.” They are both oriented toward city life and in conflict with what respondents believe to be a lack of community and caring among city dwellers and the dehumanizing effects of the city. The idea that heroin use is cool serves as tacit permission to experiment with heroin.


Heroin abuse Collective identity Geographic place Small towns Cool 



We are grateful for the constructive comments of Charles Winick, Professor Emeritus of the Graduate Center of the City University New York and Professor Anru Lee and Ernest Drucker of John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), and editing and revisions provided by Kirsten Hunt, of Columbia University Teachers College. They reacted to an earlier draft of the paper. We also would like to thank the external reviewers for their helpful comments in revising the paper. A version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems held in New York City August 10–12, 2007. Research for the mid-Hudson study is supported by a grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), grant No. T112237, conducted under the aegis of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). The views expressed are not necessarily the views of professors Winick, Lee and Ms. Kirsten Hunt, neither SAMHSA/CSAT nor OASAS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA

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