Pavel Vasilyev



Medical Science, the State, and the Construction of the Juvenile Drug Addict in Early Soviet Russia

Although juvenile drug addiction is generally recognized as a global contemporary problem, it is often presented in largely simplified form. There is a lack of attention paid to the historical roots of drug addiction and its various cultural forms. However, even historians who have looked at the social developments and legal changes related to the topic have retained an essentialist understanding of drug addiction and have failed to see existing links between changes in medical and legal research and the evolution of narcotics policy. A tendency to overestimate the role of the state in managing the problem is also quite common and has additional relevance for the study of juvenile groups, who have been traditionally presented as requiring paternalist care and protection. In the Russian context, the emergence of juvenile drug addiction as a social problem can be traced to the years between the outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the end of the 1920s. Accordingly, this article focuses on medical texts from the period to establish how drug use by adolescents was constructed as a form of delinquency and a specific social problem requiring immediate intervention. It also examines legal documents and other primary sources that reflect changes in practical narcotics policy and increasing government regulation. By stressing the importance of transnational perspectives, this article establishes grounds for comparison with European contexts and highlights features that are specific to early Soviet medical constructions of the juvenile drug addict.

juvenile drug addiction, early Soviet Russia, medical science, public health, social problem, medical texts, morphine, cocaine

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 38, No. 4 (2011): 31-52


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