David Frank is a substance user currently in treatment with methadone, advocate for people who use illegal substances, and a scholar who studies issues related to substance use. He recently completed his Ph.D. in sociology at the Graduate Center and his dissertation examined how well methadone maintenance treatment in the United States aligned with the needs of people in the program. He is particularly interested in challenging biologically deterministic notions of “addiction” by focusing on the harmful effects of structural forces like laws and policy in the lives of people who use drugs. In his spare time, he likes to play guitar and watch horror movies with his cat, Mr. Cousteau.
Title: Positioning drug treatment within the context of the War on Drugs
People in treatment for substance use/abuse generally have limited agency in regards to their own treatment - particularly those who understand their substance use or treatment goals in ways that do not fit the dominant institutional model. This situation is rarely questioned, in part, because the often-overlapping medical and moral discourses invariably position people in treatment as willing initiates, ready to start a new and better life.
Yet, peoples’ decisions to enter treatment are often/always mediated by coercive factors stemming from drugs’ illegality. In some cases, coercion is direct, as when people are forced to treatment as a punishment by the court/state. Yet, even those who attend treatment
“voluntarily” operate within a context of criminalization that complicates notions of a choice to attend (or not attend) treatment.
Frank addresses this issue by exploring new perspectives on the relationship between “patients” and treatment providers. He focuses in particular on building models that acknowledge the contingent nature of peoples’ treatment decisions and how that reality might be understood in real-world treatment settings. He argues that recognizing the role of the War on Drugs as a force of oppression for people who use drugs, and a crucial factor in their treatment decisions, will enable people in treatment and providers to develop better organizational structures and more productive ways of interacting with one another.