About the Addict Collective
The modern disability movement has been guided by the claim Nothing about us without us. Similar foundational principles were and are espoused by all sorts of activist endeavors by and for marginalized groups. Yet in many cases, members of such groups continue to be sidelined in discussions about the groups—abstract debates about their status, societal placement, and experience center the perspectives of non-marginalized people. As Du Bois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk, “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”1
This is true of addiction research and policy: nonaddicts are in charge of it. Their interpretations of addicts, rather than our own, are the defining feature in the subject. That’s not only harmful—it’s counterproductive. When addicts are marginalized within clinical and political discussion of addiction, our experiences are defamiliarized. We become sensational stories. A world where addict self-reports are not the starting point for discussion of addiction is a world all the more conducive to the crack panic of the 1980s and the fentanyl panic of today. It is a world in which the guiding concern is “What do we do about addicts—how do we solve the ‘addict question’?” rather than “Who are addicts; what are they like; what can we do for them?”
The Addict Collective is a blog by and for addicts. We believe that addicts are the best-positioned to discuss addiction, and that our experiences should be platformed in public discussion of addiction. Nothing about us without us.
What does it mean to be an addict?
There are many theories about why people are addicts, in a causal sense. Some such “generating mechanism” theories include self-medication, getting “hooked,” active choice, genetic predisposition, and so on. These theories are, for our purposes, irrelevant. We take the term “addict” to be relational and political. Addicts are the people who experience particular kinds of subordination. Social, political, and economic forces regulate, incentivize, and criminalize the pursuit and possession of controlled substances and processes.
For example: Consider a nonaddict and an addict both of whom are informed they will be subjected to random rapid panel urine tests as a condition of parole. The oppression instantiated by the drug test is more directed and less escapable for the addict. This is not to say that such tests aren’t bad for nonaddicts, or even that they aren’t oppressive to them. Rather than that addicts are uniquely oppressed by mechanisms such as exploitative criminalization and drug distribution mechanisms, family separation, coercive institutionalization, and so on, we claim that they are specifically targeted by such powers: addicts are, in many cases, the demographic these structures “have in mind.” When nonaddicts are caught in the web of substance criminalization, society at large frames it as an injustice and a tragedy: “It was just a small amount of weed!” When addicts instead are caught, that is taken as indication that the oppressive structure is functioning properly.
So, we are pluralistic about what “addiction” is. If you are a person with a normatively atypical relationship to a controlled, criminalized, or regulated drug, then you are one of the people we are fighting for. But many “process” addictions like gambling travel with similar experiences of oppression. You are an addict if you are targeted by structural forces in ways resembling what we elsewhere describe as the “bear-trap model.”
Much addiction discourse focuses on the stigma of addiction rather than the material oppression of addicts. But changing social attitudes about addicts doesn’t liberate addicts from the network of political subordination that marginalizes us. Encouraging doctors, judges, and police officers to be sympathetic to addicts is very different from telling them not to incarcerate, institutionalize, or sterilize us.
For example, addicts are currently oppressed in medicine through both medicalization of addiction and lack of access to addiction-unrelated medical care. We are written off as “drug-seeking,” refused treatment, or told that our medical problems are a result of our addictions when they’re actually unrelated. Arguments about whether how we should be viewed do not necessarily travel with material differences in how we are treated: in many cases, what is being debated is what justification undergirds policy harmful to addicts rather then the policy itself.
Our objectives are as follows:
Popularize addict activism and the pursuit of addict liberation. That means characterizing the political oppression of addicts and critiquing narratives of and policy concerning addiction. Most importantly, it means creating a platform on which addicts’ voices can be heard.
Participate in the creation of a language and hermeneutics for addict interiority. We want to help nonaddict allies understand what we are like. That means celebrating addict experience and identity, and generally describing things from our epistemic standpoint.
Platform addicts’ and allies’ work in ways appreciative of the intersectional nature of addict oppression. We want to create opportunities for addicts to share their thoughts, from published journal papers to anonymous online musings. Often, these accounts will be intersectional: in both the social construction of the addict category and the creation of drug distribution and criminalization networks, the relationship of addict oppression to colonialism, class, race, sexuality, gender, and (non-addiction-related) disability is irreducible. Therefore we stand in solidarity with efforts for liberation by other marginalized communities and want to promote their work (especially, but not only, if their discussion of oppression and liberation overlaps with addict experience).
Subvert the systemic erasure of addict testimony through the ages. Our stories have been hidden; archivally, we want to reclaim and organize the addict testimony that has been ignored.
Who we are
Anna Lind (she/her) was an autistic addict and activist from Dallas, Texas. Her experience with addiction, mental illness and institutionalization, as well as years of study regarding mental health, the psychiatric industrial complex, addiction, capitalism, imperialism, racism, sexuality and gender identity, informed her perspective and knowledge of the intersectionality required for true liberation. She worked with several leftist organizations such as Dallas Houseless Committee and Food Not Bombs to assist and advocate for the homeless population with a heavy focus on acute mental illness and harm reduction. Anna passed away in October 2023, and remains beloved to and dearly missed by her family, friends, and the hundreds of people whose lives she changed.
T. Virgil Murthy (she/he/alcoholic/addict) is an activist and philosophy student from Cleveland, Ohio. She is currently engaged in graduate studies in philosophy of disability, decision theory, and philosophy of statistics and serves as the co-chair of the Minorities and Philosophy chapter. Her academic and activist focus is on characterizing and celebrating addict interiority, promoting accessibility, and countering ableism.
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Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Dover Publications. p. 3.