Fifty years into “Just Say No,” the United States has made little progress with its significant drug problems. The overdose crisis is escalating, access to addiction treatment is limited, and people are still sent to prison for simple possession. Even as we shift toward the legal use of some drugs, other drugs remain deeply stigmatized and criminalized. Yet proven solutions are out there—so what’s not working?
In a talk that incorporates both scientific data and examples from popular culture, professor Ingrid Walker shows that our perceptions about “drugs” depend on who is taking which drugs. Why are we stuck in the same failed approaches? Could it be that the answer is as basic as questioning and changing our cultural stories about drugs and their users?
Ingrid Walker (she/her) is associate professor emerita of American studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Her interdisciplinary research explores how social perceptions of drug use in the United States inform everything from popular culture to policy. In her book, High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users, she examines the cultural norms and conflicted thinking that reinforce our drug problems. Walker also works with the Drug Policy Alliance to influence social change.
Walker lives in Tacoma.