DOPE: The Hustlers That Came In Out Of The Cold


BY JEFF DEENEY “Hustlers Anonymous is a fellowship of members whose lives have become unmanageable due to the choices they have made. The only requirement for membership is the desire for a better life and a willingness to take certain suggestions. Many of us have experienced negative consequences as a result of our hustler lifestyle: incarceration, broken families, police harassment, and near death experiences. Due to the lure of the streets we have time and again chosen the seemingly easy way out over our mothers, children and our own personal freedom. If you are tired of handing over control of your life to the system, missing your children grow up, or just ready to get out of the game, then you are ready to take certain steps. Some of these may seem hard but if you are ready to gain true respect for yourself, from your family and from your community, then you are well on your way.”

So goes the Hustlers Anonymous preamble—read, in traditional 12-step style, at the start of every meeting. [..] The origins of Hustlers Anonymous are murky, but its use spread quickly across Philadelphia this year because it helps solve an increasingly common problem facing urban drug-treatment sites: What to do with drug dealers stipulated into the substance-abuse treatment system by the courts? As probation offices and diversion programs use the drug treatment system more heavily as a way to keep nonviolent offenders with drug arrests out of prison, counselors find themselves saddled with a growing number of clients who refuse to identify as addicts and insist on qualifying themselves as hustlers.In urban settings like Philadelphia, this new type of treatment consumer is a self-described “hustler.” He’s young and typically black or Latino, was caught selling drugs like heroin and crack, and reports using heavy daily amounts of marijuana and frequently other popular hustler drugs like Xanax (an anti-anxiety prescription drug), wet (the anesthetic PCP) or codeine cough syrup.Hustling is his best opportunity to make a decent living, the sole job available that he finds appealing, and an essential part of his personal identity. According to treatment sites, hustlers meet the clinical definition of a substance abuser necessary to fit the criteria for placement in an outpatient group—low level, inexpensive care. And some hustlers do self-report consuming mind-boggling amounts of less harmful drugs like marijuana while working the corner: 20 or 30 blunts a day is not uncommon. MORE