Author Identifier

Stephen Bright

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Addiction Research and Theory


Taylor & Francis


School of Medical and Health Sciences




This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in ADDICTION RESEARCH & THEORY on 09/12/2021, available online:

Engel, L. B., Bright, S. J., Barratt, M. J., & Allen, M. M. (2021). Positive drug stories: Possibilities for agency and positive subjectivity for harm reduction. Addiction Research & Theory, 29(5), 363-371.


People who use drugs understand drugs and drug use in ways that are often different to the way knowledge of drug use is constructed within the dominant medico-legal discourse. Their experiences are, more often than not, represented in negative ways within dominant discourse, a disconnect that can create adverse consequences for people who use drugs, through the production of stigma and shame leading to poor health and social outcomes. A key difference in how drugs are understood by people who use drugs is the capacity of the former to recognize positive aspects of drug use and create more agentic subjectivities for themselves concerning the use of drugs. Using a thematic analysis of the online forum Australian Drug Discussion, hosted by, we identify positive drug stories and the contexts of their emergence, as subversions or modifications of dominant understandings. We argue that positive understandings of drug use, as well as recognition of the way their expression serves to generate agency for people who use drugs within or against the confines of dominant discourse, may provide opportunities to limit further the harms flowing from stigmatization and negativity.