More Dispatches from Buffalo: Biomedicine and its Critics

Editors’ Note: Here’s the second of Michael Durfee’s reports from the recent ADHS conference.  Readers interested in more about Michael should consult his first post.

Biomedicine and its Critics in Addiction
On Saturday, Caroline Acker spun the tale of methadone’s multiplicity.  Acker presented a case for the five lives of methadone:  First, as a powerful German analgesic and replacement for morphine.  Second, as a detox drug in the Lexington Narcotic Hospital.  Third, as a maintenance drug intended to treat what doctors believed to be the metabolic disease of addiction.  Fourth, as a crime-fighting aid, as methadone decreased the likelihood that addicts might commit crimes to score.  And finally, in its fifth incarnation, methadone tethered itself to the language of harm reduction.  Following the five lives of methadone, Acker astutely informed the audience of concurrent paradigm shifts regarding the causes of addiction.  For Acker, the major shift comes with methadone as a maintenance drug.  In this instance, Acker sees a direct challenge to the classic era’s attempt at eradication and abstinence. 

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