Postwar Britain: Subcultural Transitions and Transmissions
The chapter re-examines the ‘postwar boom’ in opiate addiction, in which sociological research has identified the first appearance of drug subculture in Britain. The changes that characterised the postwar years are reassessed, and it is argued that the rapid increase in heroin users was not a matter of an opiate subculture appearing in place of the pre-war medicalised addicts, nor of script doctors taking over from normative practitioners. Rather, one wave of London’s opiate subculture morphed into another, larger grouping, which was linked with the youth culture arriving as part of the more developed consumer society of the 1950s. This new subculture took over the characteristic spaces of the earlier subculture of the 1930s, the nightclubs, cafes and bars of Soho, and drew on the practical drug know-how of the previous subcultural addicts. The building up of an established body of script doctors over some 25 years provided the drug availability necessary to equip the postwar proliferation of addiction.