Toothless: The Methamphetamine “Epidemic,” “Meth Mouth,” and the Racial Construction of Drug Scares

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Abstract

From “reefer madness” to “crack babies,” American drug scares demonstrate that race shapes the construction of epidemics and diagnoses. This research brief reexamines the racial construction of drug scares in light of the recent methamphetamine (meth) scare, a drug “epidemic” constructed as White and accompanied by a new diagnosis: “meth mouth.” Through examination of survey data and dental research, I challenge the evidence for both the “epidemic” upsurge in meth use and the “meth mouth” diagnosis. Given the weak evidentiary basis for epidemic and diagnosis, I offer a preliminary interpretation that the meth epidemic is constructed as symptom and cause of White status decline, with dental decay the vehicle for anxieties about descent into “White trash” status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages10
JournalDu Bois Review
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 15 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • Drug Scares
  • Epidemic
  • Meth Mouth
  • Methamphetamine
  • Whiteness

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