Bring it on home: Home drug testing and the relocation of the war on drugs
The award-winning movie American Beauty provides a popular depiction of what we suggest is an extension of anti-drug initiatives in which drug testing, coterminous with a change in the anti-drug discourse, is introduced into the homes of white middle-class America. The story unfolds in a stereotypical, middle-class suburb. In one scene an attractive, white, teenage boy sells marijuana to his middle-aged neighbor. The neighbor asks about a container of yellow liquid and the boy responds that it is urine. His parents, he explains, drug test him. This article explores this most recent extension of America's anti-drug initiatives into a new and relatively untouched space, the realm of middleclass domesticity. Widely proclaimed failures of the "war on drugs" have prompted a renewed emphasis on attempts to eradicate the demand for drugs. In the process, the metaphor of drug use as a "disease" has been revived. This trope works in the context of a distinctive constellation of actors, institutions, and interests to advance home drug testing as a potential solution to one manifestation of America's drug problem. Parental drug testing of teenagers advances anti-drug initiatives into the home and into a child's body by effectively deputizing parents, making them unique articulations of private police. We argue that the use of such tests is characteristic of wider trends in neoliberal approaches to governing crime. Home drug testing is part of a turn to technology in governmental strategies which suggests that analysts must pay greater attention to the minutiae of such tools and the social factors that help to position them as potential solutions to crime problems. However, the drug testing example indicates that rather than being embraced exclusively due to their demonstrated abilities to reduce crime risks, governmental technologies can be adopted for a host of less rational reasons. In the process, they can also prompt some highly distinctive forms of resistance. We draw from various research sources, including approximately 50 websites dealing with drug testing, numerous hard-copy pamphlets and informational packages pertaining to such tests, and advertisements in specialty magazines aimed at drug users. Telephone interviews were conducted with five representatives of companies that market home drug tests. The minutes of hearings into the regulation of home tests by the US Food and Drug Administration provided valuable insights into who originally advocated on behalf of these tests, and the types of problems they thought these technologies might solve (Food and Drug Administration, 1997).
Moore, D, & Haggerty, K.D. (Kevin D.). (2009). Bring it on home: Home drug testing and the relocation of the war on drugs. In Who's Watching?: Daily Practices of Surveillance among Contemporary Families (pp. 54–70).