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Life with Heroin: Voices From the Inner City

NCJ Number
Bill Hanson, George Beschner, James M. Walters, Elliott Bovelle
Date Published
216 pages
This account of the social world of Black male, regular heroin users from four U.S. cities is written from the perspectives of the users.
The book opens with a description and discussion of the social conditions and life patterns of the Black inner-city communities of Chicago, New York City, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. A total of 124 men living in these communities participated in the Heroin Lifestyle Study (HLS), which involved being interviewed in-depth by former heroin addicts. The HLS has produced insight into how these heroin users spent their time and their techniques for meeting the economic demands of heroin use while affording support for daily needs. An unexpected finding was that the men lived relatively structured lives in which there were regular time periods spent engaging in a variety of fairly predictable and even conventional activities. They got up early in order to spend many of their waking hours "on the job," which usually meant "hustling" in pursuit of the means to maintain their once-a-day, relatively controlled heroin habits. The most frequently reported main hustle was theft, and the second most frequently reported source of income was legitimate work. Other common hustles involved obtaining funds from family and friends through borrowing, manipulation, and dealing. The four types of hustlers identified among the sample were the opportunistic hustler, legitimate hustler, the skilled hustler, and the dope hustler. Most claimed that they resisted criminal activity that involves violence. Another significant finding is that the drug habits of the men were flexible; on average, most used heroin only once a day. They adjusted their use according to price and availability, and they managed their heroin use within the limits of their ability to pay for it. Chapter references and a subject index


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