Murphy investigates perspectives on drug addiction in Illness or Deviance?

READING, Pa. -- Jennifer Murphy, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Berks, recently published a book in which she investigates various perspectives on drug addiction. Titled Illness or Deviance? Drug Courts, Drug Treatment, and the Ambiguity of Addiction, and published by Temple University Press, the book examines a drug court and affiliated drug treatment programs to see how addiction is constructed in each setting.

From the publisher’s website: “Is drug addiction a disease that can be treated, or is it a crime that should be punished? In her probing study, Illness or Deviance?, Jennifer Murphy investigates the various perspectives on addiction, and how society has myriad ways of handling it—incarcerating some drug users while putting others in treatment.”

“Illness or Deviance? highlights the confusion and contradictions about labeling addiction. Murphy’s fieldwork in a drug court and an outpatient drug treatment facility yields fascinating insights, such as how courts and treatment centers both enforce the ‘disease’ label of addiction, yet their management tactics overlap treatment with ‘therapeutic punishment.’ The ‘addict’ label is a result not just of using drugs, but also of being a part of the drug lifestyle, by selling drugs. In addition, Murphy observes that drug courts and treatment facilities benefit economically from their cooperation, creating a very powerful institutional arrangement.

“Murphy contextualizes her findings within theories of medical sociology as well as criminology to identify the policy implications of a medicalized view of addiction.”

According to Charles Faupel, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University, and co-author of The Sociology of American Drug Use, Jennifer Murphy’s carefully researched case studies add color and nuance to our understanding of the ambiguity inherent in our policies and responses to the issue of drug addiction in American society. Illness or Deviance? makes a valuable contribution in the detail it provides regarding the ‘working out’ of this ambiguity in those agencies that are on the front line—the drug courts and treatment agencies. I am particularly impressed with the application of the concept ‘therapeutic punishment’ as this aptly describes not only what is taking place in these institutions, but I believe what drug treatment in America must inevitably do. Murphy is a skilled ethnographer and provides some very keen observations and insights."

Murphy's research interests are in drug policy and the simultaneous medicalization/criminalization of drug addiction. Her current research project is looking at how a person's framework for understanding addiction influences their opinion on how to handle drug offenders.

For more information, contact Murphy at 610-396-6050 or via e-mail at [email protected].