To examine social contexts and processes influencing transition to drug injection among street youth.
42 street youth participated in in-depth interviews. A typology of experiences was built founded on youth’s street life and drug use trajectories. The transition to drug injection was examined through these experiences.
We identified five types of mutually exclusive experiences. The “downtowner’s” experience is characterised by early street life and drug consumption trajectories, and a strong identification with the downtown milieu. These youth progress from one drug to another and, in a milieu where drug injection is omnipresent, this escalation culminates in transition to injection. The “tripper” street life and substance use trajectories begin later and are less intense. Most “tripper” youth are already chronic hallucinogens users when they arrive in downtown Montréal. Although they judge “junkies” severely, they show some ambivalence towards injection. The “on the go” experience is characterised by trajectories of drug use and street life that are intermingled, leading to a loss of control. These youth, who often have serious delinquent behaviours, come to downtown Montréal to party and consume drugs, mostly stimulants. Their drug use pattern and network make them at high risk of starting cocaine injection. The “hard-luck’s” experience is characterised by a lack of identification with the downtown milieu. These youth who use drugs recreationally, end up in the streets accidentally, often because of unemployment. The “alcoholic’ experience is related to alcohol misuse. These youth usually end up in the streets due to this dependence. Their street involvement is mostly an experience of solitude. The risk of transitioning to injection for both these types is low.
Some combinations of street life and drug use trajectories seem to contribute to injection among street youth. Some important factors interact and increase the risk of street youth transitioning to injection: poor personal assets; early rupture with primary social institutions; social integration into subcultures where both street life and “drug trips” are fashionable, drug preferences and the local drug market.¹
Beauty’s gone. I know it like I know anything. It’s in your bones when someone leaves. You can feel it in the outlines of the rib cage, how the loss somehow bends you forward, leans you inward.
I haven’t seen her in months, in months and months, the beautiful girl I became attached to street-family style two years ago.
She’s gone to a place I don’t know, where I can’t follow. I’ve written about her here and here and here and here and here. Since I cannot send an envelope with words to her, I send it into the void here:
I have all the letters from all the prospective pimps you met in jail, men you spread your legs open for across courtroom benches, those you invited to see the nothingness beneath your grey velcro jumpsuit, those who would eventually write to you inter-jailhouse post.
“To: the new Love of my life. What happen if I get my people to bail you out? What would you do? Would you ride for a nigga or would you forget about a nigga. I need to know asap baby.”
I have all of those letters in my house and all of your jail paperwork. All those anger management worksheets and medical reports, which you do need to come and get because I need my kitchen shelf back. I have everything you owned when you stumbled out on the street from court that day in the dead of last winter, the day of your release when we ran to each other down the sidewalk like every sappy movie scene that I’ve rolled my eyes at for years.
You were holding my sweatshirt, do you remember? My favorite soft cream color one that I thought might bring you comfort in a place where everything seemed to be thin and polyester and velcro and cold. You were carrying my books, the novels in verse that I had brought you in jail, the ones you threatened to fuck a bitch up, deadass, if she touched them again.
Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
Do you still read them? Shows how stupid I was, that I thought you might not like to read. I had to reread them to keep up with you, “What was that bitch Kristina thinking? She did not give up that baby for no drugs.”
You told me you made “reading” an official hobby on your facebook page… you’re adorable sometimes, tough bitch. You better still have my books. I had to work to get you soft copies after that asshole court guard took your hardback. It was the right choice not to freak out at him. Thank you.
I don’t care if you laugh when I thank you for controlling your temper. No, I did not want you to go to solitary confinement for throwing jelly at the breakfast jail guard, Miss Jelly. No, I did not want you to go to the psyc ward for kicking the window out of a police van, though you did anyway.
God, my visits to you in jail were memorable. That first time you thought I was your pimp and you busted out into tears and I felt like the worst person in the world for showing up, for giving you the hope that it was him instead. (Why can’t Rikers tell you who’s visiting in the three hours it takes me to make it through security to you? Ugh.)
I looked for him, your pimp, for you though, walked into that crowd of hooded men against the fence in Hunts Point and asked for him. He said he would visit and never did, said he got a new girl. I told him to go fuck himself. I guess I knew then that I was too close to you to be a removed observer with a tape recorder. Hard to believe it was ever that way.
The funny part was the next time I visited you had a girlfriend anyway (you move too fast for me to keep up), your “AG” aggressive girl. I think that was also the time I was mind-numbingly hungover, hunched over on Table 23 in front of you, the time I sat and you told me stories of how you were born in prison, grew up visiting your mom there in Oklahoma. You did some combination of dropping out of high school and stripping and being pimped out and coming to Bronx.
Please tell me that you still feel now how you felt so many months ago about hard drugs: that they’re terrible and ruined your mom. You know, I think you’re still the only one in Hunts Point I’ve known who worked the streets and didn’t shoot up or do coke. Still doing K2, I’m assuming… Please tell me that’s all.
Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
I could spend days here recounting, just remembering you…your lime green tights on the street when I first met your 21-year-old self who I could have mistaken for a ballet dancer, your first cigarette out of jail, talking about relationships on the wooden pallets while cars rode by and slowed down to ask us, “how much?”
Courtesy of Chris Arnade.
I see you all the time — I teach teenagers now (am I crazy or what?) in Hunts Point and sometimes I see a girl who has that incredible spirit and loudness that you do. You would teach them well yourself probably, set their punk selves straight.
This letter’s turning into ramble, isn’t it?…maybe I should just stop and let the rest just run through my mind on repeat and simply say:
Beautiful girl, you told me I needed to try K2 but never could without you, that you would keep me safe and indoors and away from people and things that could hurt me. Come back so that I can try it and you can make fun of how silly I get.
Beautiful, after I was raped on the street in March and showed up in Hunts Point completely out of sorts, you started yelling on the sidewalk, how you would kill a motherfucker, go back to Rikers for me. Come back so that I can hug you again and again and always for that.
Beauty, a wannabe pimp once wrote, “I miss you my love how you been my love. Right now I can’t get you out of my head baby.” I say that to you now but say it right. Come back and I can give you the note.
I miss you, my sister, and love you so much.
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