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Accepted Paper:

Illegal drug use and age: constructing ageing as a space of health and safeness  
Emma Eleonorasdotter (Lund University)

Paper short abstract:

How do constructions of age and material conditions affect perceptions of risk and safeness in relation to illegal drug use? In this paper, I analyse interviews with women of various ages using illegal drugs to discuss questions about substance use as an age related risk taking and health signifier.

Paper long abstract:

During my dissertation work, based on interviews with women using illegal drugs in Sweden, ageing has come across as being constructed in complicated and sometimes paradoxical ways in relation to safeness and health, as well as in relation to danger and decadence.

The time line for a drug user in Sweden is, through institutional and political discources on drug use, staked out from beginning to end. From the first experience of drugs to dependency, decline, loss of control and eventually kicking the habit, or death. This is not a time line that my informants wants to be associated with and age is sometimes used as evidence of being located at a different timeline, opposed to the expected timeline of a weakening, ageing drug user.

In my overall study, the interviewees are located on different places on continuums between recreational use and problematic use, between integration in work life and unemployement etcetera. But in this paper I focus the group of women who reinforce a normative timeline as they actively dissacociate themselves from the timeline of a drug user.

Instead they construct themselves as proven healthy by how they have not only survived to their age but also fulfilled normative arrangements in terms of career and social status, and that their continued drug use can be framed as a responsible, age-suitable practice for those with physical and psychological abilities to handle the substances of their choice. They demonstrate a perception of a personal and temporal safe zone for illegal drug use.

Panel Age03
Tracking age in a transforming world
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 April, 2019, -