Home > An in-depth case examination of an exotic dancer’s experience of melanotan.

Van Hout, Marie Claire and Brennan, Rebekah (2014) An in-depth case examination of an exotic dancer’s experience of melanotan. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25, (3), pp. 444-450. doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2013.10.008.

Cultural values placed on tanned skin equating with perceived health and attractiveness in the Western world have stimulated the development, sale and use of synthetic tanning agents. These agents are synthetic analogues of the naturally occurring melanocyte-stimulating hormones (α-MSHs) which stimulate melanogenesis or pigmentation of the skin. There is a lack of research on prevalence of use, user experiences and outcomes, despite evident ‘health marketability’ and diffusion of use via the Internet.

We present a unique, intensive, holistic and exploratory single case study analysis of an active user’s experiences of synthetic tanning product’s labelled as melanotan, with rich description of the case’s meanings and identities attached to being tanned, motives for use, injecting experiences and practices, sourcing routes, outcomes and future intentions to use.

The case, an exotic dancer, had no prior drug injecting experience and did not identify as ‘injecting drug user’. Introduction to injecting of synthetic tanning products occurred with peer assistance. She was conscious of safe injecting practices, which were described as not using needles twice, keeping the product refrigerated, disinfecting and rotating injecting sites, and using sterilised water to dissolve the product. She was aware of synthetic tanning products being unlicensed, unregulated and possibly contaminated. She appeared assured in the self-administration of double dosage and self management of nausea with benzodiazepines and by injecting before sleep. Experiences of synthetic tanning were positive, with reported feelings of enhanced self confidence and perceived attractiveness grounded in her confidence in the product’s effectiveness to achieve a desired darkened skin tone. No long term or chronic negative outcomes were reported. Development of tolerance and awareness of dependence on synthetic tanning agents was described.

We discuss her expert account as it relates to the synthetic tanning product outcomes, risk heuristics, sourcing routes and make recommendations for policy.

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