Shift attempts to destigmatize drugs by engaging in an open and honest dialogue about drugs through diptychs and gifs.

The Challenge

Media and government and their antagonist drug campaigns and regulations have been part of an ineffective plan. The existing ideology about drugs exerts pressure against an honest dialogue, further making it difficult for addicts to seek help. A drug epidemic is a sign of an underlying problem which isn’t being solved, and in response, the population begins using drugs to cope with the unresolved problem.


Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

Drugs help Ali get though another day of depression while living in a war zone where he has nobody to depend on.

War and Coping with War

In “Afghanistan’s Child Drug Addicts,” Ramita Navai interviews Ali, a thirteen-year-old boy who’d been abusing heroin. Ali had witnessed several suicide bombings and airstrikes to which he lost all his family. Ali stated he rather not live than living through the war, further adding he sometimes wants to kill himself. Drugs were helping him cope. He could escape the war for a limited time enabling him to live through another day.

While approaching this pair of visual essays I realized Ali had a story and the word “story” corresponded with movies, so I began my visual research on movie posters. Considering humans connect with faces more than abstract shapes, the presence of a figure is an important element. The warplanes are replaced with opium poppies and syringes, and the soldiers with sheep.

Heroin and Diamorphine are synonyms, what matters is how they are taken. The intention to achieve euphoria or homeostatis is the biggest difference.

Diamorphine Hydrochloride vs Heroin

Drugs are used to cure diseases but what’s the difference between the medical drug and the street drug? Diamorphine is a synonym for heroin. The major differences between the two are that Diamorphine Hydrochloride is made in a clean environment, it’s more stable and potent and patented, and the manufacturer is validated. The manner in which the drug is consumed can mean healing or self-destruction.

Diamorphine Hydrochloride and Heroin are products (hypothetically from different companies), therefore the pair was treated as advertisements. The audience knows the dynamic of an ad and it was in my best interest to take an advantage of that to create clear meaning.


Regular theme assessments helped assure unnecessary overlaps and concetration of each diptych. Visual research, hand-drawn sketches, computer sketches, and additional research were all part of an unordered process earlier in this stage. Each helped generate, validate, and test an idea. Quotes, Poetry, memes, and stories about addiction were also used to draw inspiration from.


My initial intention was to solve a drug epidemic 11,302 km away. It was an ambitious project for an eight month period, one person team, and my limited understanding of the audience first-hand. My earlier research on the topic, however, helped me discover an important question - "Why is there a demand for the drug?" My thesis topic later morphed into Destigmatizing Drugs. Link to research blog.

While researching, there were several themes that were explored: "Drugs and Sanity," "Intervention and the Brain," "Happiness," "The Future of Drugs," "Psycho-pharmacology," "Drugs and Evolution," and "Emotional Homeostasis" are a few to name.