Snapshot: 'Beating Drug Addiction in Tehran: A Women's Clinic' (2021)

'Beating Drug Addiction in Tehran' book jacket

"A narrative style of book allowed the voices of the Iranian women - staff and clients - to be heard."

'Beating Drug Addiction in Tehran: A Women's Clinic' details the intimate lives of four Iranian women, their struggle with drugs and the daily grind they faced in their personal lives. We caught up with author Kate Dolan (Australia, 2019/20) to learn more about the book and their experiences in Iran.

Iran and Iranian culture

There have been so many surprises working in Iran. Once in a meeting with senior health staff at the UN headquarters, a colleague asked me what they needed to do to stop AIDS. I hesitated because we had been talking about sex, drugs, sex work and homosexuals. He said, ‘Just say it and I will make it fit with the Koran’.

Also the people, they are so lovely. If you stop in the street, they will rush to see if they can help you. Their image in the world is so different to what the people are like.

Beating Drug Addiction in Tehran: A Women's Clinic

The idea of writing a book in a narrative style came to me when I realised the stories I was hearing were not well suited to the usual style of academic writing. These stories could not be summarised to fit neatly into the rigid format of a 2,000-word journal article. Also the abundance of the stories, theirs and mine, over the decade devoted to this project, meant that a book seemed to provide a more appropriate format than a series of articles.

Kate Dolan attending a meeting at an Iranian prison
Kate Dolan attending a meeting at an Iranian prison

While information sources for this book were plentiful, the bulk of the material in this book comes from research conducted under my supervision. I worked closely with a senior researcher who supervised two research assistants in Iran. Valuable information came from observations and conversations I had during my time in Iran. Clients were interviewed and re-interviewed to assess their progress. Staff members were also interviewed several times to glean their view and experience of this project. A narrative style of book allowed the voices of the Iranian women - staff and clients - to be heard.

The challenges of working across developing countries

I think the challenges tend not to be common as each country has its own problems, whether it's supply of electricity, or clean water or even stable regimes. Its important to listen to locals on working out how to deal with things.

In one African country, a particular airline always leaves early so there are fewer passengers and therefore less fuel is needed. When I mentioned I missed my plane, my colleague said yes you have to get to the airport 4 or 5 hrs before its scheduled departure time!

Professor Kate Dolan

Kate co-founded Australia’s first Needle and Syringe Program, the Australian Prostitutes’ Collective and AIDS Drug Information Collective for drug users. Her International Program builds capacity in developing countries. She established the first methadone clinic for female drug users in Iran. She has carried out over 100 studies, published over 270 publications and has received $39 million in research funds. She has been a consultant for the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. She received a Winston Churchill Fellowship to study managed alcohol programs and was awarded a Senior Fulbright Fellowship from Kansas State University to study solitary confinement in prison. She has worked in many countries including Iran, Pakistan, Liberia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, Palau, the UK, Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Philippines.

Kate's book: Beating Drug Addiction in Tehran: A women’s Clinic, Interactive Publications, Brisbane, 2021, is available here.

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