Using the System: Incorporating Methadone Treatment as a Temporary Adaptation to Tough Times on a Prostitution Stroll

Regina E. Brisgone, Rutgers University

The intermittent use of methadone by heroin-addicted sex workers in times of scant resources (few sex customers) is explored within a context of sample members' multiple adaptations to intensive police crackdowns and other pressures. Among tactics: using "smuggled out" methadone and enrolling in programs for short respites until good times return to the prostitution stroll. Methadone misuse is considered among multiple tactics, including sharing resources, "dosing down" on heroin; engaging in less detectable styles of prostitution; and developing "new" short-term" hustles to ride out tough times on the prostitution stroll. Methadone misuse is discussed within a larger discussion of coping with police crackdowns and other obstacles to a committed "drug lifestyle". Data is from three years of field research involving observation and in-depth interview techniques with 90 sample members who are heavy drug users and regular sex workers on an urban New Jersey prostitution stroll located in an area of multiple drug markets. Implication for effective use of police crackdowns and more effective treatment options in such contexts will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006