Visualizing a Calculus of Recovery: Calibrating Relations in an Opioid Epicenter

Sydney M. Silverstein, Katie Milligan, Annette Osborn, Iman Aamir, Danielle Gainer, Raminta Daniulaityte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article uses participatory photography to explore the relationships animating efforts towards recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD) in the Dayton, Ohio area, an epicenter of illicit opioid use and overdose death. A photo-elicitation project was conducted with thirteen people who met the DSM-5 criteria for OUD. Photographs were used as prompts during qualitative interviews, which were thematically analyzed. Analysis of both visual and textual data demonstrated the ways in which recovery became an unfolding process of calculation as participants made strategic choices to navigate relations and encounters with things, people, and places. Relationships across each of these domains could, under some circumstances, serve as supports or motivators in the recovery process, but, in alternate settings, be experienced as “triggers” prompting a resumption of problematic drug use or, at the very least, a reckoning with the feelings and emotions associated with painful or problematic aspects of personal histories and drug use experiences. Findings highlight the importance of understanding recovery as a calibration of the ambiguous relations animating experiences of everyday life. We argue for continued emphasis on recovery as an active performance and ongoing practice of calculation—of risks and benefits, of supports and triggers, of gratification and heartbreak—rather than a goal or static state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798-826
Number of pages29
JournalCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Addiction
  • Opioids
  • Participatory photography
  • Photo-elicitation
  • Recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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