Graffiti, Substance Use and Strengths Perspective

Varvara Poulouktsi[1] & Charalampos Poulopoulos[2]

[1] Varvara Poulouktsi, BA, MSc, Social Worker.

[2] Charalampos Poulopoulos, Associate Professor of Social Work, Department of Social Administration and Political Science, Democritus University of Thrace, e-mail:


The aim of the present paper is to study the way in which informal street rules mould the coalescence of peers and graffiti drawing. It also attempts to explore whether and how graffiti and the messages it conveys are linked to experimentation with drugs. Overall, 15 depth interviews with four homogeneous groups were adopted as a research method. Groups were formed from members of a therapeutic rehabilitation unit in the city of Athens and Thessaloniki, from practicing graffiti artists engaged in graffiti since adolescence. Interviews aimed to highlighting experiences of the respondents, with graffiti drawing. In addition, the group “Street Art Conservators” (ST.A.CO.) was approached, given that this group was involved with street art conservation and educational programs in Secondary Education Schools in Athens, where graffiti were taught as part of a creative curriculum. Interviews were also taken from a founding member of the ST.A.CO. group, who also teaches as Professor in the Department of Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art and from a therapist of the Therapy Center for Depended Individuals (KETHEA) that uses graffiti in the treatment process as a way of forming a therapeutic relationship. Results indicate that Graffiti and drug use are related in the context of identity seeking within a peer group in adolescence. However, experimentation mainly with cannabis and alcohol happens after graffiti. Graffiti functions more as mean of self- actualization and recognition within the closed community of “writers”. The study also reveals that Graffiti can be also used as a creative tool for prevention and social re-entry, according to the strengths perspective.

Key words: graffiti, substance use, adolescence, social identity, belongingness, self- actualization, strengths perspective

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