Thinking about Social Determinants of Health through the Relationality of Work and Drug Use


Public health often frames drug use and addiction as destructive and antithetical to productive citizenship, particularly formal employment. Anthropologists show how drug use emerges in specific institutional, social, and political economic contexts. This attention to context suggests that the relationship between drug use and work may not be as stable as epidemiology models it. There is a multiplicity to the relationality of work and drug use. These results are based on in‐depth interviews conducted in 2018 and 2019 with 16 individuals undergoing addiction treatment at a residential facility in northern Arizona. In some cases, drug and alcohol use led to losing work. In other cases, drug and alcohol use made work more possible. The entanglements between work and drug use fluctuated through time. Social determinants of health are relationally brought into being, part of larger assemblages, and dynamic.