'Screwed for life': Examining identification and division in addiction narratives

Denise Jodlowski, Barbara F. Sharf, Loralee Capistrano Nguyen, Paul Haidet, Lechauncy D. Woodard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this study, we investigate the use of narrative in online conversations among persons suffering from chronic opiate addiction and evaluate both its positive and negative uses. Illness narratives, as argued by sociologist Arthur Frank and psychiatrist/medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman, enable patients to give order to life experiences and receive support from others. We wished to explore under what circumstances online support coalesces and breaks apart. The narratives we examined exemplify two topics frequently discussed on the message board: the recovery process and what it means to be 'clean'. To better understand these narratives from a theoretically based approach, we used the work of rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke. Burke's description of two human motives, suffering and perfection, led us to an understanding of how unification and division happened within the online community. We found that the recovery narrative primarily embodied the author's suffering and, consequently, received support from other members of the message board. The second narrative centered on what it means to be 'clean' through a discussion of the author's desire to court temptation, revealing what Burke calls the rotten nature of perfection. As a result, the author of the narrative provoked disagreements and did not receive support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalCommunication and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 29 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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