Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women

Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women

Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women

Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women


Methamphetamine (ice, speed, crystal, shard) has been called epidemic in the United States. Yet few communities were ready for increased use of methamphetamine by suburban women. Women on Ice is the first book to study exclusively the lives of women who use the drug and its effects on their families.

In-depth interviews with women in the suburban counties of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. chronicle the details of their initiation into methamphetamine, the turning points into problematic drug use, and for a few, their escape from lives veering out of control. Their life course and drug careers are analyzed in relation to the intersecting influences of social roles, relationships, social/political structures, and political trends. Examining the effects of punitive drug policy, inadequate social services, and looming public health risks, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, the book gives voice to women silenced by shame.

Boeri introduces new and developing concepts in the field of addiction studies and proposes policy changes to more broadly implement initiatives that address the problems these women face. She asserts that if we are concerned that the war on drugs is a war on drug users, this book will alert us that it is also a war on suburban families.


Based on my current education, occupation, and residential zip code, I appear to be far removed socially and culturally from the women I interviewed, analyzed, and wrote about in this book. Yet, as I heard their stories, I often thought of my own childhood, my siblings, and my not too distant past living in the suburbs on food stamps. I was not on Skid Row, where I used to look for my father. I was not in prison, where I visited my brother. I was not an abused wife, like my alcoholic sister who died from a head injury, allegedly an accident. I was on a Pell grant and penniless, but I was in college.

Like many idealists who are attracted to the academic discipline of sociology, I wanted to learn how to stop the social injustices I saw around me, starting with those against my brother. Serving a thirty-year sentence due to the “three strikes and you’re out” laws, the root of his crime was drug addiction, probably depression that started in youth. It was no surprise that my graduate education led me to study drug users, fortunately with some of the best drug researchers in the United States.

After I got my Ph.D., a university position, and a federal grant, I was back in a suburban landscape similar to where I had lived in a trailer during my college years. Now, though, I was studying women who used methamphetamine—an increasing social problem in these suburban communities. Conducting research in this area, I often felt my past chillingly close. I cried many times after hearing the painfully dismal stories from hopeless women who I knew had few options, but was I weeping for them or for my brother, who as an ex-felon parolee entered society with no prospect of employment? Or were these tears of guilt because I was safe and they were not?

Poor, marginalized, and vulnerable females are not the only women presented in this book, but they are the most desperate and forgotten in the suburbs. Anecdotes of abuse and violence are not the only stories depicted here, but they are the most poignantly told and intensely remembered. These were also the women and the stories that resonated most with my own experiences. Some of these women had lives of pain and suffering that I knew . . .

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