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How It Is to Fiend

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.

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Objectives To examine barriers to effective drug addiction treatment for women involved in street-level prostitution.

Methods A qualitative approach was selected to enable a detailed exploration, in an informal and unthreatening manner, of the barriers to drug addiction treatment from the women’s perspective. Nine in-depth interviews were conducted with women who were involved in street-level prostitution. Transcripts of one-to-one interviews were analysed for recurrent themes using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Results Barriers to effective addiction treatment are present at psychological, interpersonal, and wider societal levels. Themes identified included: an impoverished sense of self-worth, a lack of trust and consistency in treatment, and the absence of a comprehensive treatment package.

Conclusion Current services could be improved by the provision of a structured treatment programme designed to target the specific physical and psychological requirements of this population. Also, efforts to correct the fictitious, negative portrayals of women involved in prostitution are required, if treatment efficacy is to be improved. ¹


The Found Toys Watch: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Sarah’s blonde children were taken
And the state might keep them, what for
Good if she doesn’t get clean
One way or jailed other.

For now, in her despair she fucks
Up and down in the broken bus
While the found toys watch
And her husband waits

Outside fiending,
Convinced:
It’s only a blow job
And blow jobs don’t count as sex

And the purple eyeshadow
She wears is for men to admire
When it’s next to their cocks only

Today her face is the sickest grey.
Please God find a dealer because

Gotti got got yesterday
And Jose don’t got nothing:
he’s always under the covers, you know,
With his kids while his ex is out.

So where, then, where for Buddha
Bless? Holy, holy hit.

The sting is made of primary colors and beige
Cadillac lookouts flash — pause
For questioning and maybe cuffs.

The cops say, “we saw you
Go into that building, and you better tell us
Now if you went in: we know
The answer already.”

No arrest, no cell block detox
Just more of this tape recorder, repetition
Life of pushing and of being
Pushed.

It’s grimey,
The hassle and the hustle,
The things that matter about blood
Like heroin and kids.

Just find a goddamn bag,
Or just do something
To give back her innocents,

Princesses that live through
The wallpaper
Of her Obama phone.


Fiending: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

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More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Chris Arnade’s Photos and his Facebook feed

Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Percival 6:01 am 01/29/2014

    Drug addiction is not a necessary concomitant of prostitution. It is coincident, not causative. The root problem is the social stigmata associated with prostitution due to the American Puritan heritage. Rather than being seen as essential outlets for sexual tension, prostitutes are seen as “home-wreckers”.

    The national conversation about sexual liberation, seeded perhaps in the late 1800′s and blooming in the 1960′s, is slowly changing the perceptions of prostitutes both by the general public *and* by themselves.

    When prostitutes no longer see themselves as parasites infesting the seedy underbelly of society (incapable and undeserving of raising children), they won’t need powerful drugs to numb their agony.

    Also, consider that drug addiction is a commonality among denizens of the underbelly, allowing prostitutes to fulfill a basic human need- to have a sense of community with *someone*.

    Until then, psychological support is fundamental. Prostitutes must believe themselves to be above that underbelly. Until society learns to accept them, they must accept themselves as deserving of basic human decency.

    Link to this

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