two - Political context
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 March 2022
This chapter discusses the political context in which the research was undertaken. It provides an insight into the ‘mentalities’, ‘governmental rationalities’ or ‘political rationalities’ embedded in governmental approaches to female illicit drug use. The history of prohibition, the ‘war on drugs’, and how this is wielded within the political climate of neoliberalism is explored. This is linked to the ascendancy of the ‘risk’ approach to governing illicit drug use, responsibilisation and the process of ‘othering’ these modes of governing sustain. The aim of this chapter is therefore to provide a general picture of the political domain in which specific drug policies in the UK, US and Canada have emerged. The discussion also aims to provide a framework for the ensuing chapters that focus more closely on the specific governmental techniques and procedures used in the control and regulation of women's illicit drug use.
History of prohibition
Prohibition is the practice of formally forbidding the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale and consumption of certain drugs by law. Although less than 100 years old, it is widely regarded as necessary and/or inevitable (Shiner, 2009). However, the intentional use of mind-altering or psychoactive drugs has a very long history. Every past society has used and explored drugs as part of its cultural practice and social life, which indicates that drugs are an integral part of human nature – humans have been using psychoactive drugs since ancient times (Sullivan and Hagan, 2002; UNODC, 2008). In the 19th century in Europe and North America many elixirs, medicines and cough mixtures contained narcotics, cocaine or marijuana. Most women could not afford to see a doctor, and so self-medicated (Boyd, 2004). Opiates were used for many ailments considered specific to women, including menstruation pains, menopause and childbirth (Berridge and Edwards, 1981). Upper-class women visited opium dens, and opium eating and smoking were considered aristocratic vices (Brecher et al, 1972). Women were treated with cocaine for a range of nervous conditions, reproductive problems and illnesses (Kandall, 1999). Marijuana was prescribed to women for menstrual pain as well as migraines, asthma and depression.
While the late 19th century saw an increased public concern with drug use and dependency, it was not considered a major social problem.
- The Governance of Female Drug UsersWomen's Experiences of Drug Policy, pp. 43 - 60Publisher: Bristol University PressPrint publication year: 2015