top of page

Dissertation Research: Constructing the Addict, Addiction Models, and Drug Policy in the USA

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Editor’s Note:  These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen, which was formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but is now periodically featured on the Points blog. Contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.

Author: Eng, Peter Anthony

Abstract: This study expands the role of transpersonal psychology in the treatment of addiction and offers a revised theoretical model that is, in effect, a spiritual alternative to the Twelve-step approach. First, the current transpersonal model of addiction is deconstructed based on three of its core suppositions: (a) that Twelve-step programs are spiritual rather than religious, (b) that they are philosophically congruent with transpersonal theory, and (c) that they are the most effective treatment for addiction. Next, aspects of two major theoretical trends in transpersonal studies, the integral and the participatory perspectives, are then implemented as foundational supports for extending the traditional transpersonal model of addiction beyond its current boundaries. Addiction research from different fields and disciplines is also referenced to ensure that the model is effective, appropriate, and relevant.

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 9781339792675

Advisor: Whitfield, Carol

Committee members: Chalquist, Craig; Nolan, James

University/institution: California Institute of Integral Studies

Department: East-West Psychology

Author: Gaston, Shytierra

Abstract: Black-white racial disparities in drug arrests are large and longstanding in the U.S. criminal justice system, as black Americans are arrested for drug offenses at a rate nearly five times the rate of white Americans. Because drug offending data mostly show that blacks are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs, racial disparities in drug arrests appear to be attributable to factors other than drug offending. This dissertation assesses whether neighborhood contextual factors can explain racial disparities in drug arrests across St. Louis neighborhoods between 2009 and 2013. Using mixed methods, the quantitative and qualitative components test leading explanations of the racial disparity problem: differential drug involvement theory, differential scrutiny theory, and racially-biased policing theory. The findings refute differential drug involvement theory and show some evidence of differential scrutiny, although differential scrutiny cannot explain the racial disparity in drug enforcement. Instead, the results lend the greatest credence to racially-biased policing theory. Specifically, the multivariate statistical analysis shows that neighborhood racial composition is the strongest predictor of the racial disparity problem, net of neighborhood-level drug problems, violent and property crime, citizen calls for drug service, and social disorganization. Racially-biased drug enforcement manifests as racial incongruity, or “out-of-placeness”, as citizens face the greatest risk for drug arrests when their race is incongruent with the neighborhood racial context. Additionally, a grounded theory analysis of officers’ narratives in drug arrest reports reveals qualitative differences in drug enforcement practices across racialized neighborhoods and between blacks and whites. Police tend to use reactive policing to initiate drug arrests in white neighborhoods and of white citizens. In contrast, police tend to use officer-initiated, more invasive policing practices in drug arrests of black citizens and in black and mixed neighborhoods. Officers sometimes justified initiating these proactive encounters based on characteristics of the neighborhood or citizens’ demeanor, even when citizens were not engaging in prohibited behaviors. Thus, the excessive use of officer-initiated vehicle and pedestrian stops and officer surveillance of black people and in black and mixed neighborhoods appears to widen the net for blacks as drug arrestees. Findings from this dissertation suggest avenues for future research and have important implications for social change and police reform.

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 9781339776811

Advisor: Rosenfeld, Richard

Committee members: Brunson, Rod; Campbell, Michael; Lauritsen, Janet

University/institution: University of Missouri – Saint Louis

Author: Yates, Timothy Archibald

Abstract: Since the rise of the cult of the self-made man at the dawn of U.S. industrialization, the alcohol abuser has epitomized unmade selfhood—the person who either squanders success or never achieves it because of alcoholic excess. “Unmade in America” argues that from the antebellum era to the 1930s, cultural constructions of the alcohol abuser were shaped and reshaped in constitutive relation to the changing ways Americans defined the demands, possibilities, and limits of self-making in response to the process of industrialization and the rise of consumer culture. The early temperance movement inculcated producerist values of self-denial which normalized abstinent self-making and spread new optimism concerning the prospect of reforming drunkards, whose addiction antebellum Americans attributed to voluntary moral failure. As the unstable post-Civil-War economy generated a crisis of self-making, professionalizing medical experts, temperance reformers, and their critics increasingly interpreted drunken failure through the lens of evolutionary hereditarianism. More and more middle-class Americans came to believe that alcohol was a hereditarily degenerating agent that weakened the self-making capacities of the living and the unborn. Between the late 1880s and 1910, as frustration with unmade drinkers mounted, an increasingly harsh eugenic hereditarianism doubly damned Euro-American “inebriate” and “dipsomaniac” alcohol abusers as morally incapacitated by defective heredity—as racially degenerate white men who were incapable of effective self-making. Simultaneously, however, a countervailing psychotherapeutic movement rejected eugenic fatalism and promised to restore alcohol abusers to effective self-making by tapping plentifully healing energies thought to reside in the unconscious mind. Heralding a cultural reorientation from scarcity to abundance in an era of growing industrial capacity, psychotherapeutics prompted the Progressive-era formulation of increasingly multi-causal explanations of alcohol abuse which emphasized psychosocial selfhood and resisted moral or hereditary reductionism. After 1900, bourgeois Americans embraced consumerist self-making practices which encouraged a normalization of drinking, especially during Prohibition. Experts and lay thinkers vanquished the eugenic double-damning and rescued a new generation of middle-class alcohol abusers from its fatalism by popularizing the concept of “alcoholism”: a form of psychosocial maladjustment which led to self-erasing rather than self-enhancing consumption, and which was subject to psychosocial readjustment. Alcoholism was not simply the product of a sudden rediscovery of addiction in late 1930s. Instead, alcoholism achieved cultural salience gradually between 1900 and the 1930s, in a process characterized by debate and conflict. Publication year: 2007

ISBN: 9780549255970

University/institution: University of California, Davis

1 view

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page