This article examines the symbolic work of gender as it intersects with race and class in popular media and in local community discourses surrounding the “suburban opioid epidemic,” in which national drug policies, and White futures, are thought to be at stake. The study starts with an analysis of the White, middle-class, female “new face of addiction” that has been cultivated by national press coverage of prescription opioid-cum-heroin overdoses in the U.S. and then turns to interviews with community physicians in the front line of a clinical response to the “epidemic” in Staten Island, a White suburban enclave within New York City that is experiencing 3–4 times the opioid overdose rate of any other City borough. Physicians use the language of family membership to indicate identification with their opioid addiction patients, and many go to lengths to provide holistic care and to incorporate family support for their patients despite lack of insurance reimbursement. White, educated patients describe buprenorphine as a way to maintain their professional identities, while low-income Black and Latino patients describe pharmaceutical maintenance as a socially alienating arm of the criminal justice system. Together, media and clinical responses make up strategies of White racial rescue from threatened social reproduction in an era of substance-induced White downward mobility.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health