Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Nancy Romero-Daza

Co-Major Professor

Heide Castañeda

Committee Member

Carolyn Ellis

Committee Member

David Himmelgreen

Committee Member

Marilyn Myerson

Keywords

female addiction, recovery, 12-step program, drug abuse

Abstract

Women suffer methamphetamine (meth) addiction at a rate much higher than rates for addiction to other drugs. Female meth users are susceptible and predisposed to gender-related risks: high rates of unprotected vaginal and anal sex, sex-work, and sexual coercion. Precursors for addiction (e.g., abuse, body dysphasia) put females in a difficult position for recovery and highlight the need for gender-specific research and treatment.

Methamphetamine (a synthetically derived stimulant) creates psychological and physical dependency that affects every neuron of the brain and damages the body immediately. Women ingest meth for initial effects that allay social pressures: feeling euphoric, connecting with others during ―parties,‖ losing weight, boosting energy, and feeling ―normal‖ despite tumultuous living conditions. Meth‘s aphrodisiac properties improve sexual relations, at least until addiction sets in, at which time relationships frequently become exploitive or abusive. Eventually, meth‘s positive effects turn negative, resulting in poor psychological and physical health. Meth addicts experience hallucinations, insomnia, and deteriorating relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Physically, they suffer gauntness, deterioration of teeth and gums, and skin formication. They often undergo abuse to sustain their addictions.

This study analyzes quantitative data from the National Household Survey to frame the reflective ethnographic portion‘s interactive interviewing and introduces a new tool, the Life Time Line, to clarify and correlate life events. The ethnographic results, based on extensive life history interviews with five women in recovery from methaddiction, concur with national trends and detail themes that could inform prevention and treatment programs. Recurrent themes are: dysfunctional parental relationships (including being ―adulterized‖) and chaotic childhood; a full range of abuse by parents, family, and husbands or boyfriends; introduction to drugs by males; body image dysphasia; and feelings of normalcy on drugs or self-medication in the face of unbearable living conditions or mental illness.This study emphasizes recovery. The ethnographies reveal that each woman had an epiphany, at least partially facilitated by a recovering addict; participated fully in a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA); became dedicated to the acquisition of a college education, including graduate school; and attend AA or NA to maintain sobriety.

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