Drugs and Medications.
Looking at self-support practices
The Undomesticated and the Domesticated Power of Drugs.
Psychoactive substances are said to be “consciousness-altering”, to have the power to alter our affects, sensations, perceptions and thoughts. But what about their power to form collectives? Shifting communities of ‘precariarised’ homeless junkies, occasional communities of night owls, communities of psychiatric patients and care providers held in an instituted asymmetrical relation, communities of cops, judges and clinicians acting in concert with one another, but sometimes in conflict, against the backdrop of prohibition. And self-support communities of politicised substance-users.
There are said to be irregular, undomesticated uses of psychoactive substances (the illegal consumption or misuse or other unregulated uses of psychotropic substances). So there are also regular, domesticated uses (circumscribed by prescription and administration controlled by authorised persons: doctors, psychiatrists, pharmacists…). In France we speak of “drugs” and “medications”, of substance abusers and drug addicts, i.e. people with an illness, both actual and virtual patients.
It would therefore be preferable to speak of plural uses of drugs, giving rise to multiple realities. Or that it is ultimately a question of apparatuses, engendering different modes of subject-making, different ways of bringing our experiences as substance-users into existence. Within which kind of set up does psychoactive substance use confirm the status of docile sufferer, patient, recalcitrant junky or a psychotic supposedly ignorant of their own condition? But also, which kind of network of relational operations, involving humans, molecules, places, rules, legitimises the knowledge and identity of the clinician and the status of non-knowledge and illness? We have the neurolepticised psychotic, the anxiolyticised anxiety sufferer, the thymo-regulated depressive and the junky on substitutes. And then we have the pharmacologist, the doctor, the psychologist, the caseworker, the cop, the judge (supposing they never get high). It goes without saying that these different parties are not attributed the same authority to determine the legitimacy of an experience. But sometimes patients wax impatient. The history of self-support in the context of substance-use was, and continues to be, among other things an attempt to break with the asymmetry that characterises the different parties’ relationship to healthcare.
In this way, drugs, like the pharmakon, are at once a remedy and a poison, depending on the circumstances. And what if what heals and what makes a person ill in a substance in fact comes down to a question of organisation or arrangement, which we need to construct collectively? What if molecules, in all their diversity, above all require new modes of sharing and distribution? There is a ‘molar’ potential which needs to be investigated: prohibition laws and the prescription monopoly held by the medical body, which are concomitant to the state control of health management. But this cannot be set apart from a microphysics of power.
There are also forms of molecular resistance. These resistances give rise to new relational practices that reject the naturalised asymmetrical regimes. In a context where the legitimacy of some, i.e., the knowledge of pharmacologists and clinicians, depends on the non-knowledge of others and the unconditional acceptance of the status of illness (for their own good), we need to establish new communities based on practices and on the construction of shared knowledge.
We will be inviting Fabrice Olivet and Georges Lachaez, members of ASUD, a self-support group for substance users (http://www.asud.org/) and Yann Derobert and Hervé Porcceda, members of REV , the French Hearing Voices network (http://www.revfrance.org/).
Prior to our discussion we will be listening to some excerpts of concrete music composed by Hervé Porcceda.
Free entrance, on reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone 01 53 56 15 90
photo : Xavier Ribas, Habitus nr 19.2, 2007