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This paper proposes a stigma-vulnerability nexus as a critical incursion into understandings of and responses to drug-related social problems.
As a theoretical perspective, the stigma-vulnerability nexus is therefore concerned with the macro-structural factors that shape both concepts and how they intersect. To demonstrate its value as an analytic tool, it is first applied to the framing of ‘County Lines’ dealing, where senior gang members are stigmatised, but the wider drivers of vulnerability among the young people they exploit are overlooked. Secondly, the nexus is applied to the case of new psychoactive substances. Here, the perceived vulnerability of young people is used to justify responses that ultimately lead to amplified harms being displaced onto structurally disadvantaged populations such as the homeless and prison inmates, compounding their economic vulnerability and class stigma.