The language of community is ubiquitous in academic, public health, and policy discourse about drug using populations. Yet, it has been argued that in some settings, the parameters of "the drug user community" are far from self-evident. We undertook this ethnographic investigation to explore experiences and understandings of a "drug user community" (sometimes referred to more specifically as a "street youth community") among young people entrenched in Vancouver's inner city drug scene. Our findings revealed that in this context, conventional notions of community—that is, a social network characterized by commonality, mutual responsibility, solidarity, and/or stability—resonated with some youth. However, most questioned the value of membership within this community, in which what they had in common with other youth were ongoing experiences of poverty, marginalization, and social exclusion. Many felt membership in the drug user community precluded their ability to be responsible and productive citizens within the wider community of "mainstream society." Experiences of resource deprivation and everyday violence on the streets led many participants to emphasize the limited possibilities for community among their peers. We argue that it is important to critically examine heretofore essentializing assumptions about the nature of inner city drug user or street youth communities in order to better understand young people's needs and desires in these settings.

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