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THE ELEGIAC ADDICT: History, Chronicity, and the Melancholic Subject



In biomedical and public health discourses, “chronicity” has emerged as the prevailing model to understanding drug addiction and addictive experience. This approach is predicated on constructing and responding to addictive experience in ways that underscore its presumed lifelong nature. In this essay, I examine the phenomenon of heroin addiction and heroin overdose in northern New Mexico's Española Valley, which suffers the highest rate of heroin-induced death in the United States, and explore how the logic of chronicity is dangerously reworked through the Hispano ethos of endless suffering. Focusing on the narrative of Alma, a Hispana heroin addict who died of an overdose after many previous overdoses, I evoke a sense of the physical, historical, and institutional refrains in which she felt herself caught. By tracing Alma's death back to these refrains, I describe the complex of entanglements in which her addiction took form and show how the discourse of chronicity provided a structure for her suffering and, ultimately, her death.