Shana Harris is an ethnographic and qualitative researcher with a long-standing interest in drug use and abuse, global and public health, health policy and practice, and science, technology, and medicine in Latin America and the United States. She has studied these issues in a variety of contexts, working on projects that examine the utilization of buprenorphine in opiate addiction treatment programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, recreational gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) use in Northern California, and heroin use and recovery in Scotland.
In her doctoral dissertation, "Out of Harm's Way: The Politics and Practice of Harm Reduction in Argentina," she ethnographically examined drug use and the politics of intervention involved in the promotion of harm reduction in Argentina. Based on 16 months of fieldwork in Buenos Aires and Rosario from 2006 to 2008, this research traced how harm reduction was adopted by local non-governmental organizations and select government agencies since the mid-1990s. She illustrated how this public health model influences the ways in which drug use, drug users, and drug user health are understood and approached institutionally in contemporary Argentina. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, University of California Pacific Rim Research Program, and Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
As a NIH-funded Postdoctoral Fellow in the Behavioral Science Training in Drug Abuse Research Program at the National Development and Research Institutes, she collaborated with researchers to address opioid overdose prevention, heroin use and HIV/AIDS in Colombia, and prescription drug diversion in the eastern United States.
Her current research examines psychedelic-based drug treatment in Mexico. It focuses primarily on the therapeutic use of a naturally occurring psychoactive substance called ibogaine, which is derived from a rainforest shrub native to Central Africa known as Tabernanthe iboga. It is currently being utilized for "addiction interruption," as a way to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opiates, alcohol, and other drugs. In 1967, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, deemed ibogaine to have a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use and subsequently classified it as a Schedule I drug. As a result, it is now illegal to use in the United States. Due to its legal status, numerous clinics in Mexico have been established that cater to a primarily American clientele looking for drug treatment with ibogaine. Many pursue this treatment abroad after finding little to no long-term success with mainstream drug treatment modalities, such as medication-assisted treatment and 12-step programs. This research provides insight into the experience of receiving and providing drug treatment with ibogaine as well as illuminates issues of medical travel associated with this unique treatment. This research is supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Florida Education Fund. Click here for a news story about my research.